The Analysis of Vengeful Creditor: EDUCATION, POWER, AND COLONIALISM


 

Vengeful Creditor is a short story written by Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian who has written many short stories and novels such as Things Fall Apart (1958), Marriage Is A Private Affair (1952), No Longer at Ease (1960), and The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories (1953). Most of his stories contain of social critical happened in his country. This short story, Vengeful Creditor, is a story I read when I was in my fourth semester. It was one of short stories I should read in my prose subject. In this story, Vengeful Creditor, Achebe also shows his critics about social gap in Nigeria.

There are four major characters in the story; Mr. Emenike, Mrs. Emenike, Veronica, and Martha. Mr. and Mrs. Emenike are couple who are well-educated, rich, and have a high position in the society. Mr. Emenike is a man who works as a Permanent Secretary of the nation; while Mrs. Emenike is a Social Welfare Officer.

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It is told that there are a program called “free primary” — a program that gives free education for those who are in school age. Many people are interested in joining the program including Mr. and Mrs. Emenike’s servants. All of their servants resign from their job because they want to join the “free primary”. Mr. and Mrs. Emenike, then, looking for another servant to take care their youngest child. And this condition leads Veronica who is still ten years old entering Mr. and Mrs. Emenike’s house. She works there as a babysitter.

Martha, Veronica’s mother, is actually hard to let her little daughter go. But considering about her economic condition, she believes that by letting Veronica go, Veronica will have a better life. Furthermore, she is influenced by Mr. Emenike’s words.

“…But my belief is that a child who will be somebody will be somebody whether he goes to school or not. It is all written here, in the palm of the hand.” (Achebe, Vengeful Creditor, par. 77, page 111)

From that statement it can be concluded that Mr. Emenike is not concerning about education, although he, himself, sends his children to school. Martha knows this, she does not hope that Mr. Emenike will send Veronica to school even if he says that. Her only hope is that the Emenikes family will take care of her.

But Veronica does not think in that way. She is very excited when Mr. Emenike said that he would send her to school. She thinks that she will have a chance to go to school (Achebe, Vengeful Creditor, par. 84, page 111). She does the best for the Emenikes.

At the end of the story, Mr. and Mrs. Emenike send Veronica back to her village because Veronica did a mistake to the Emenikes. Veronica’s hope to go to school also gone. This situation makes Martha, Veronica’s mother, disappointed because Mr. and Mrs. Emenike do not treat Veronica as she wished for.

From the summary above we can see that there is a big social gap between the poor and the rich. Furthermore, the setting takes place in a developing country where the numbers of poor people are big. In addition, the country is still affected by the European and American colonialism. Those who are rich and have a high position in the society, like Mr. Emenike and his wife, can do whatever they want. They can have a luxurious house, expensive cars, and high education. While the poor are the opposite. They can’t have a comfortable life, even to be well-educated. For them education is a “craze” — impossible to afford.

In that country, most of the poor work as servants; even if they are children. It is because they do not have good educational background. This condition leads the government to create a program called “free primary” — a program that gives free education for those who are in school age. But many of rich people, including Mr. Emenike and his wife, oppose this policy because it will give disadvantages for them. Their servants, who are mostly in school age, are going to join the program and leave the job. Furthermore, they (the servants) do not want to be paid cheap. They demand to have a higher wage after joining the program.

Those who oppose the policy blame colonialism for this “free primary”. In their opinion, education is a part of colonialism. Poor people who have never known about education become know because of the influence of colonialism. One more thing which makes them hate Western people is that they are richer than the indigenes. They can pay higher wage to the servants so that many of them prefer to work for the Western rather than the indigenes as stated in paragraph 57.

…And she hated the Americans and the embassies (but particularly the Americans) who threw their money around and enticed the few remaining servants away from Africans. This began when she learnt later that her gardener had not gone to school at all but to a Ford Foundation man who had offered him seven pounds, and brought him a bicycle and a Singer sewing machine for his wife (Achebe, Vengeful Creditor, par. 57, page 108).

The government itself actually doesn’t really care about the education. Three months later, after the realization of “free primary”, the program is ended. The true reason is that the “free primary” will increase the taxes. Then from the government point of view it will invite protest from the society. In their opinion, taxes are more important than school fees. Taxes are obligatory, everybody has to pay it whether they want or not. But school fees are different as stated in paragraph 67.

…One simple fact of life which we have come to learn rather painfully and reluctantly — and I’m not so sure even now that we have all learnt it — is that people do riot against taxes but not against school fees…One other point, if a man doesn’t want to pay school fees he doesn’t have to, after all this is a democratic society. The worst can happen is that his child stays at home which he probably doesn’t mind at all. But taxes are different; everybody must pay whether they want to or not (Achebe, Vengeful Creditor, par. 67, page 109).

People who are well-educated usually have a power and high position in the society. Unfortunately, many of them use the power inappropriately — and colonialism is one of its products. They feel that by having the power they can do anything they want; including legalizing slavery. This condition makes the social gap more visible, especially in developing countries where the number of the poor is big. The rich will become richer while the poor will become poorer.

References:
Achebe, C. 1972. Vengeful Creditor.
Chinua Achebe. Wikipedia. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinua_Achebe#Themes
Vengeful creditora — characters. Enotes.com. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from http://www.enotes.com/vengeful-creditor/characters
Vengeful creditorb — introduction. Enotes.com. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from http://www.enotes.com/vengeful-creditor/
Vengeful creditorc — themes. Enotes.com. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from http://www.enotes.com/vengeful-creditor/themes

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