Dead Men’s Path by Chinua Achebe Summary Essay

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Dead Men’s Path Analysis

“Dead Men’s Path” by Chinua Achebe is a short story about a young headmaster and his conflict with a village’s people when he wants to close a path that is important for their belief. In this story we can see the conflict between modernity and ancient believes. The story is set in 1949 in an African village named Ndume. The narration is told in third person, and begins when a young Michael Obi, the protagonist, was appointed as headmaster of the school. Michael was very enthusiastic with this new challenge. He put all his energy to bring modernity and beauty to the school.

His wife helps him with his work, implementing a beautiful garden. One day when he was admiring his work in the school, he saw an old woman from the village walking across the garden. When he went to see the place, he realizes that there was a disused path that crosses the school from the village. Michael asks to a professor the reason why they allow people use the path crossing the school. The professor explains him that the path is important for the villager because it connects them with their place of burial.

Obi feels upset for this, and decided to close the path with barbed wire. He doesn’t want that the Government Education Officer has a bad impression about the school if he sees the villager using the path for a pagane ritual. The conflict in this story is the encounter between two different points of view, one is the modernity and the other is the ancient and superstitious believes. To try to solve this conflict the village priest went to talk with the headmaster. The priest explains Michael the importance of the path and its relationship with the villagers’ animist beliefs.

Dead man’s Path Summary

Michael says that the path remains closed and explains him that the purpose of the school is to abolish such ancestral beliefs. Also he says that their duty as educator is to teach the children don’t take seriously these traditions. Two days after a young woman in the village dies in childbirth, the people consult an diviner, who recommend “heavy sacrifices to propitiate ancestors,” thus the village people, whom are the antagonists, destroy part of the school.

This action from the villager becomes the climax of the story. After that the Supervisor arrives and gives a bad review and writes “a nasty report” due to “tribal-war situation between the school and the village” which was originate for the new headmaster. The main symbol in this story is the path that signifies how traditions play an important role in the villager’s lives. For Michael, the path symbolizes the superstition and old believes what need to be changed to get progress.


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