John Macmillan, a young Englishman working as an administrator in Nigeria, sails there from Liverpool on the same boat as Obi. The two become friends and go ashore for the evening, along with Clara, when the boat docks in the Madeira Islands. Elsie Mark Elsie Mark, a girl of seventeen or eighteen years of age, hopes to obtain a scholarship to study in England. She comes to see Obi at his home and pleads for his help, saying ‘‘I’ll do whatever you ask.’’ Obi feels for her but tells her he can make no promises. He and Clara give her a ride back to town. Mr. Mark Mr. Mark pays a visit to Obi at the office of the Scholarship Commission. Speaking in Ibo, so as not to be overheard by Miss Tomlinson, he tells Obi his sister is applying for a scholarship to study in England. When Obi understands that he means to offer a bribe, he abruptly sends Mr. Mark away.
Nora is one of two Irish nuns who have recently come to Nigeria. Obi meets them at his friend Christopher’s apartment. Obi tries several times to kiss Nora, who politely declines his advances. The four of them meet twice to play tennis, but on the men’s third visit to the convent, Nora tells them the Mother Superior has asked them not to go out with African men. Ogbuefi Odogwu Ogbuefi Odogwu, an elder of Umuofia, attends the reception to celebrate Obi Okonkwo’s return from ‘‘the white man’s land.’’ Although he is not a Christian, he respects Isaac Okonkwo’s insistence that no ‘‘heathen sacrifice’’ take place under his roof. Odogwu says a brief, quasi-Christian blessing over the kola nut, to the satisfaction of the entire party. He praises Obi by saying he is the return of the spirit of his grandfather, Okonkwo the warrior.
Clara Okeke, a young, beautiful nurse, is Obi Okonkwo’s girlfriend. She meets Obi briefly at a dance in London; eighteen months later, they meet again on the way home to Nigeria and become romantically involved. She asks Obi not to tell his family about her. The reason becomes clear when she reveals to him that she is an osu. Among the Ibo, the osu are considered the property of the gods, and their descendants are permanent outcasts. However, Obi’s modern sensibility leads him to defy the traditional taboo. He immediately buys Clara an engagement ring. Before Obi goes on leave to visit his family, Clara tells him she wants to break off their engagement, perhaps already aware that despite his words, Obi’s bond with her will not survive his parents’ disapproval. After he comes back, she returns the ring and hints that she is pregnant. She and Obi then go together to a doctor to seek an abortion. The operation is botched and Clara is hospitalized for five weeks. She refuses to look at him when he visits or read the letter he writes. When she is discharged she leaves Lagos and Obi’s life.
Joseph Okeke was a childhood classmate of Obi Okonkwo now living in Lagos and employed as a government clerk. Obi stays in Joseph’s small apartment before embarking for England, and again after he returns several years later. Joseph is the first person who voices an objection to Obi’s plan to marry Clara, but his arguments serve only to embolden Obi. Joseph accompanies Obi to a meeting of the Umuofia Progressive Union, and privately tells the union president about Obi’s engagement. Obi considers this a betrayal, and Joseph falls out of his favor. Months later, however, after Obi’s mother dies, Joseph appears at his door, bringing bottles of beer to help entertain those who come to offer their condolences.
Hon. Sam Okoli
Hon. Sam Okoli is a young government minister. He is handsome, well dressed, and has a reputation as the most eligible bachelor in Lagos. Obi sees Clara sitting in Sam’s car, but later learns that they are not romantically involved. Later, Obi borrows thirty pounds from the minister to pay for Clara’s abortion.