Obi receives a letter from his father, hoping he will visit soon to discuss an urgent matter. Obi suspects his parents have received word that Clara is an osu. Obi and Christopher drive to a convent to play tennis with two Irish women, teachers at a local convent school, newly arrived in Nigeria. The four have already gotten to know each other and played on two previous occasions, but this time the women say they cannot socialize with Obi and Christopher anymore because the head nun at the convent warned them not to go out with African men. While driving home, Obi brings up his visit from Elsie Mark, and he and Christopher discuss the incident. Once again Christopher takes a more easygoing stance than does Obi on the ethics of bribery.
Obi prepares to travel home on his local leave. The night before his departure, Clara, in tears, says they should break off their engagement, because she does not want to come between him and his family. Obi has decided to spend one week at home rather than two, so that he won’t run out of money. When he arrives home, he is eager to see his mother and aggrieved at how ill she looks.
On his first night home, Obi sits down to talk with his father. Hearing the name of Clara’s father, Isaac Okonkwo understands that she is osu and tells his son he cannot marry her. Osu is like leprosy, the elder Okonkwo says, and to marry one would shame his family for generations. Obi argues that they are Christians and that the ignorant superstitions of the past will soon disappear. His father is unmoved. The next day, his mother tells him of a bad dream she had, in which termites devoured the bed in which she slept. She connects the dream with the news of her son’s intention to marry an osu. If he insists on marrying her, she demands that he wait for her to die; if he does not, she tells him, she will kill herself. Obi is undone by her words and shuts himself in his room, spurning visitors and absenting himself from family prayers. His father speaks to him of his own past: how his own father had placed a curse on him after he ran away with missionaries in his youth. Because he suffered, he tells Obi, he understands Christianity more deeply than his son ever will.
Driving back to Lagos in a stupor, Obi avoids a head-on collision with a mammy-wagon by making a last-second swerve into a bush. He and the car survive with minimal damage; onlookers aver that he is extremely lucky. He tries to persuade Clara that all will work out in the end, but she returns her engagement ring. Clara hints, without admitting, that she is pregnant. Obi becomes alarmed. He asks Christopher if he knows a doctor. Obi and Clara visit two doctors; the first refuses to perform an abortion, but the second agrees to for a fee of thirty pounds in cash. Both doctors ask Obi why he doesn’t marry Clara.
Facing the need to find thirty pounds by the afternoon, Obi thinks of asking Hon. Sam Okoli. Obi brings Clara to the doctor. Alone in his car, Obi has a premonition of doom and is unable to drive away. When Clara and the doctor get into a car, Obi wants to jump out and stop them, but he does not. He drives after them but is unable to find them in the traffic of Lagos. That evening, the doctor tells him to return in the morning. The next morning, Obi pushes past the attendant to see the doctor, who tells him Clara is at a private hospital. A patient berates him for jumping ahead and accuses him of arrogance. No Longer at Ease Novels for Students, Volume 33 197 Novels for Students, Volume 33 – Finals/ 2/23/2010 12:13 Page 198
Back at his job, Obi sees the administrator, Mr. Omo, about a salary advance. He has visited Clara at the hospital, but she turned away and refused to look at him. Vowing to return Clara’s fifty pounds, Obi decides to stop repaying his loan to the Umuofia Progressive Union. He writes a letter to Clara, asking her to give him one more chance. She returns the letter by messenger, unopened.