Dead Men’s Path, Essay Example

The conflict in this story is made clear right away by two first names: Michael and Nancy, who calls her husband “Mike.” They are Africans who have either adopted British values or were born and raised according to them. A three way culture war is in progress.

First, Michael and his wife abide by the same outside order of rank and status. One wants to impress his official supervisor, while the other wants to be the social supervisor. Second, young Michael has a problem with the other teachers, who either lack his education and modern perspective, or have accepted the ways of the villagers without believing in them. Third, Michael has a problem with those villagers, who believe that ghosts and the yet unborn use the cemetery trail on school land. Michael considers it his job to teach his students, who are from the village, to laugh at such beliefs. He casually offers the village priest the use of some school boys in making a new trail. Those boys wouldn’t be available that easily if they didn’t also have Michael’s enthusiasm. Probably those same boys helped build the stick and barbed wire fence that blocked the trail too. Maybe Michael has succeeded in bringing his students into his culture.

But the supervisor sides with the villagers, like the other teachers had. And if  it wasn’t the boys who destroyed the fence, building, and garden, they would have known who did.  They didn’t warn Michael. Solution: learn to respect tradition. Its ghosts and gods are more powerful than education and status both. They can’t be kept out by fences — or classrooms.