In Lieu of a Lesson by Ugochukwu Udorji
In the short story In Lieu of a Lesson by Ugochukwu Udorji we have the theme of disappointment, pride, connection, arrogance and happiness. Narrated in the first person by a man called Chris it becomes clear to the reader from the beginning of the story that Udorji may be exploring the theme of disappointment. The narrator is disappointed with how things operate in Nigeria. He knows that there is a degree of sadness among people because they have to work so hard for so little. It is as though the narrator is suggesting that Nigeria may be corrupt and that the people of Nigeria are the ones who are hurting the most. This may be significant as though the narrator is disappointed with life he does not let it get the better of him. Something that is noticeable by his attitude towards others. He lets things go (the old man). He does not look for trouble and one can imagine that the narrator is smiling throughout the story regardless of the difficulties he incurs.
The theme of pride is self-evident in the story. The narrator through telling the story of Nwanza (and Eneke) manages to not only delight the passengers on board the plane but he also manages to delight himself that he has such a wide audience. It may be a case that the narrator is proud of himself that he is able to retell a story he learnt from his father. If anything the story connects the narrator to both the audience on board the plane and his father. Just as the hasty man wants to connect with the narrator, the narrator succeeds in his task of connecting with others through the means of storytelling. This may be significant as Udorji, through a frame narrative, also manages to connect the reader to the story. The reader is interested in what happens in the story (both stories being told).
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The old man, who sits alone, in many ways through his attitude, mirrors Nwanza. He too is arrogant and not prepared to be helpful to others. Something that is noticeable by how the old man treats the hasty man. The hasty man’s name may be ironic as he no longer remains hasty in any way when he is listening to the narrator. He appears to be enthralled by the story of Nwanza and Eneke. The fact that the setting of the story is a plane may also have some significance as just as a plane is travelling to a destination. The narrator too, though he may not believe it, is also taking his listeners to a destination.
The end of the story is interesting as Udorji manages to transform the narrator emotionally. He takes Chris from being disappointed with how Nigeria is run to a place of happiness. All done by holding time in the balance. Something that becomes clearer to the reader by way of Chris being unsure as to whether he has told Eneke’s story correctly. In reality the narrator has gone off on a tangent and told the story of Nwanza but more importantly he has managed to amuse others and as such time has flown, just as the plane has. Which may be the point that Udorji is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that time can change things. Just as the narrator’s mood has changed from the start to the end of the story. So too in time might the fortunes of Nigeria.