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Why does Micheal Obi’s arrogance lead to failure?
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In Chinua Achebe’s short story “Dead Man’s Path,” Michael Obi offends the local tribe by blocking their ancestral footpath, which crosses the school’s compound. Michael Obi is portrayed as a young, energetic, zealous headmaster who favors western civilization and modernity. Achebe writes of Obi,
“He was outspoken in his condemnation of the narrow views of these older and often less-educated ones” (1).
Michael Obi arrogantly believes that he is more cultured and civilized than the native Nigerians and views them with contempt. Obi also believes that he has an advantage being a younger teacher and views older educators as “superannuated people” who would be “better employed as traders in the Onitsha market.”
Michael Obi’s arrogance negatively affects his ability to compromise with the native chief, who requests that Obi remove the barriers blocking the ancestral footpath. When the priest explains the significance of the footpath, which functions as a highway for the villagers’ dead ancestors and other spirits to travel, Obi responds by saying, “The whole purpose of our school . . . is to eradicate just such beliefs as that” (Achebe, 3). Michael Obi shows a lack of sympathy and arrogance by dismissing the priest’s request and leaves the barriers in place.
Unfortunately, a local mother dies during childbirth, and the villagers respond by destroying the grounds of the compound and tearing down a school building. When the white supervisor inspects the school the next day, he witnesses the destruction and writes a scathing report concerning Michael Obi’s relationship with the local tribe. In the report, the supervisor states that the cause of the tribal-war situation is due to the “misguided zeal of the new headmaster.” Michael Obi’s inflated perception of himself and contempt for traditional cultures and practices contribute to his failure as headmaster of Ndume Central School.
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