Arrow of God
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"Arrow of God" Summary

By Chinua Achebe

fiction | 244 pages | Published in 1986

Set in the Ibo heartland of eastern Nigeria, one of Africa's best-known writers describes the conflict between old and new in its most poignant aspect--the personal struggle between father and son.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A Nigerian village chief clashes with the colonial powers, his own people, and the deities he serves.


In the novel "Arrow of God" by Chinua Achebe, the author explores the clash between traditional African beliefs and the influence of colonization on the Igbo people in Nigeria during the early 20th century. Achebe combines rich storytelling with deep cultural and historical insights to create a compelling narrative about the struggles faced by a traditional African community in the face of modernization.

Brief Synopsis

Set in the fictional village of Umuaro in southeastern Nigeria, "Arrow of God" portrays the tensions that arise when the British colonial administration imposes its authority on the Igbo people. The protagonist, Ezeulu, is the chief priest of Ulu, the village's oracular god. He is highly regarded and respected within the community.

The plot revolves around the conflicts that erupt when the British colonial regime introduces a new political system and assumes control over the village's administration. Ezeulu initially resists British influence, viewing it as a threat to the traditional power and authority of the Igbo people, embodied in their religious practices and leadership structures.

As the story progresses, Ezeulu faces internal strife within his own family, as his sons are split between embracing the colonial system and adhering to the traditional values of their people. Ezeulu's refusal to concede any ground to the British authorities, even as his own position is further marginalized, leads to tragic consequences for both himself and his community.

Through vivid descriptions and a masterful portrayal of the cultural conflicts at play, Achebe transports readers back to a pivotal moment in Nigeria's history.

Main Events

Main Events
- The arrival of the British colonial administration in Umuaro
- Ezeulu's appointment as the chief priest of Ulu
- Introduction of a new political system by the British
- Ezeulu's conflict with his sons over their involvement with the colonial administration
- Ezeulu's declaration of the sacred month, leading to a severe drought
- The internal struggles within Ezeulu's family
- The clash between Ezeulu and the British authorities
- Ezeulu's eventual capture and imprisonment
- The tragic consequences of Ezeulu's unwavering loyalty to his beliefs

Main Characters

EzeuluThe chief priest of Ulu and a respected figure in Umuaro
NwakaEzeulu's eldest son and a member of the British colonial administration
OducheEzeulu's youngest son and torn between his loyalty to his father and his desire to join the British administration
Captain WinterbottomThe British colonial district officer responsible for Umuaro
ObikaEzeulu's nephew and a skilled warrior
EdogoA close friend and advisor to Ezeulu

Themes and Insights

Conflict Between Tradition and Modernization

One of the central themes in "Arrow of God" is the clash between traditional African beliefs and the encroachment of British colonialism. Achebe explores the tension and challenges faced by the Igbo people as they try to navigate the changing world around them. The novel shows how the imposition of Western ideas and systems disrupts the social fabric of Umuaro and threatens the traditional way of life.

Power and Authority

The novel delves into questions of power and authority and the complexities that arise when traditional leadership structures are challenged by colonial rule. Ezeulu's struggle to maintain his authority as the chief priest of Ulu in the face of British interference highlights the inherent power dynamics at play and the consequences of resisting or succumbing to external influence.

Loyalty and Betrayal

The theme of loyalty and betrayal emerges prominently in "Arrow of God." As Ezeulu's sons make different choices regarding their allegiance to either the traditional Igbo customs or the British administration, the novel explores the tension between family ties and personal beliefs.

Pride and Prejudice

Achebe also examines the destructive nature of pride and the prejudices that can emerge from a sense of superiority. Both the British colonial administrators and Ezeulu believe in the inherent superiority of their own cultures, leading to misunderstandings, conflicts, and tragic outcomes.

Reader's Takeaway

"Arrow of God" provides readers with a profound insight into the complexities of colonialism and its impact on traditional African societies. Achebe's vivid storytelling, nuanced character development, and exploration of timeless themes make this novel a compelling read. The book prompts readers to question the power dynamics at play in their own lives and the importance of cultural preservation in the face of external influences.


In "Arrow of God," Chinua Achebe masterfully depicts the struggles faced by the Igbo people in Nigeria during the early 20th century. Through his intricate storytelling and exploration of universal themes, the novel continues to resonate with readers, offering valuable insights into the complexities of cultural conflict, power struggles, and the human capacity for loyalty and betrayal. Achebe's work serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving cultural heritage amidst the forces of globalization and colonization.

Arrow of God FAQ

  1. What is the plot of Arrow of God?

    Arrow of God is a novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. It tells the story of Ezeulu, the chief priest of Ulu, a deity worshipped by the villagers of Umuaro. The novel explores the conflicts between tradition and modernity, as well as the impact of British colonial rule on the Igbo people.

  2. Who is the author of Arrow of God?

    The author of Arrow of God is Chinua Achebe, one of Nigeria's most renowned writers. Achebe is known for his insightful and powerful novels that explore the effects of colonization and the clash between African traditions and European influence.

  3. When was Arrow of God first published?

    Arrow of God was first published in 1964.

  4. Is Arrow of God a standalone novel or part of a series?

    Arrow of God is a standalone novel. It is not part of a series.

  5. What are some themes in Arrow of God?

    Some of the themes explored in Arrow of God include the clash between traditional and modern values, the impact of colonization on African societies, the role of religion in society, and the complexities of power and authority.

  6. What is the setting of Arrow of God?

    Arrow of God is set in early 20th century colonial Nigeria, specifically in the fictional village of Umuaro, which is inhabited by the Igbo people.

  7. Is Arrow of God based on a true story?

    No, Arrow of God is a work of fiction. While it is inspired by the history and culture of the Igbo people in Nigeria, the specific events and characters in the novel are not based on real-life individuals or incidents.

  8. Is Arrow of God suitable for all age groups?

    Arrow of God is generally recommended for mature readers due to its themes and complex subject matter. It may not be suitable for young children.

  9. Has Arrow of God won any awards?

    Yes, Arrow of God received the inaugural Nigerian National Merit Award for literature in 1979. It is also highly acclaimed for its literary merit and contribution to African literature.

  10. Are there any film adaptations of Arrow of God?

    As of now, there are no known film adaptations of Arrow of God.