How Dead Men's Path and Snapshots of a Wedding Portray Different Cultures
For this essay I am going to discuss Dead Men’s Path, by Chinua
Achebe, and Snapshots Of A Wedding, by Bessie Head. These are both
short stories from the Opening Worlds book by Heinemann.
Written by the Nigerian son of devout Protestants, Dead Men’s Path is
a profound short story, which explores the modernisation of Africa
through beliefs and also the effects of Western customs and ideas on
traditional African society.
It tells the story of one man trying to modernise Ndume Central School
in Africa where he has recently been made Headmaster. Although only
26, Michael Obi has a very high opinion of himself, and a somewhat
over-inflated ego. He sees himself to be above others and superior to
them because he is educated: ‘He was outspoken in his condemnation of
the narrow views of these older and often less-educated ones.’
With his young wife Nancy supporting his radical ideas and views of a
modern school, not just in teaching method but also in appearance, Obi
tries to bring the ‘backwards’ school up to date by teaching the
children to ‘laugh’ at the beliefs of their forefathers.
When Obi discovers an ancient path that goes through the compound of
the school, he is amazed that the other teachers have allowed the
villagers to use it, as it goes right through the new hedges and
Marigold beds. After learning from another teacher that the path
connects the village shrine with their place of burial, Obi decides
that this is yet another outdated idea that needs to be eradicated. To
prevent the villagers using this path, Obi plants heavy sticks topped
with barbed wire at either end.
Three days later the village priest visits him. He informs Obi that
the whole life of the village depends on the path. He elaborates by
saying that dead relatives depart by it, ancestors visit by it, but,
most importantly, it is the path of children coming in to be born.
Obi, however, is not...