Chike And The River, by Chinua Achebe
Iquo Eke is a performance poet who enjoys promoting her native Ibibio culture through the spoken language. Although she is a graduate of Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management, she has done so much as a folklore poet and writer.
As a teenager, Iquo found that she could express her emotions better through writing down her experiences, with a hope of sharing them with somebody someday. No matter what challenge she passed through, she had an easy getaway in books, which has paid off for her.
Chinua Achebe’s ‘ Chike and the River’ remains Iquo’s most memorable book because reading the book gave her a first time knowledge about the River Niger! Iquo enjoyed the pockets of short adventurous experiences narrated in the book and she has continued to bear in her memory, Achebe’s power of narratives which are always engaging and entertaining.
Chinua Achebe’s ‘Chike and the river’ remains fresh with me, first because of the simple diction and a narrative pattern that makes the reader want to find out what comes next.
When I read the book, somehow I felt as though I had known so much about the river and I enjoyed the eulogies. But then, I thought I also almost felt like Chike who was quite inquisitive.
A summary of the book is about how 11 year-old Chike longed to cross the River Niger to the city of Asaba, but his challenge was that crossing by the ferry would cost him six pence, an amount he did not have. However, with the help of his friend S.M.O.G., he embarked on a series of adventures to enable him get to Asaba.
The adventure was not an easy one for Chike who got exposed to a number of experiences that were both thrilling and terrifying. But for me, that was the fun and beautiful memory of reading about a child who was exploring based on his quest to get to the root of a thing.
In some ways, young people still live the experience of Chike, showing how vast Achebe’s thoughts were even in 1966 when he wrote the book. The strength of the story was the fact that the author gave attention to every detail, like talking about Chike’s experience of having to eat his first skewer of suya under the shade of a mango tree, to visiting the village magician who promises to double the money in his pocket.
What a wonderful way to unveiling the feeble mind of a child who agrees that his money could easily be doubled. Achebe simply expressed how an inquisitive child’s thoughts could be driven by any and everything.
Poor child, it was like a crumbling cake when Chike finally got across the river. In great disappointment, he saw for himself that life across the river was just no different from where he had come from. And the option left for Chike was to make his way back to his home. But that also demanded great courage.
Memories of the book resonates whenever I see a young child trying to get into some kind of adventure, or when people get so eager to want to visit a place or find out what is inside a place. The consciousness of not wanting to be caught in similar situation may just be fresh with anyone who had read the book.
Relating this to what we experience in society, it may just be looking at how people feel about going in search of ‘greener pastures’ to some advanced country. And by the time they struggle to get to the perceived ‘promised land’ they feel greatly disappointed and begin to fight for a return home.