Short Story #10: The Sacrificial Egg by Chinua Achebe

Title: The Sacrificial Egg

Author: Chinua Achebe

Short Story #10 out of 365

Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)

Date Read: 1/4/2014
SourceThe World's Greatest Short Stories, Dover Thrift Edition, edited by James Daley.  The story can also be found on this website as PDF but also in it's original (and slightly different form) in this issue of Atlantic Monthly from 1959.

Book cover: Worlds Greatest Short Stories - Dover Thrift Ed


Julius Obi sits in his office gazing out at the once-great but not abandoned marketplace.  He recalls how great market was and how it has dwindled away with the arrivel of Europeans and more important, smallpox.  He finally considers what has happened to his fiance whom he has not seen in a week and recalls the last night he saw her.  In the final paragraph, we come to understand that Julius believes that his fiance and her mother are lost to him.  


There's much going on in this short story and Achebe succeeds in pulling it together.  In a brief few pages, he manages to invoke the history, tradition, and mythology of the African people in this region (on the Niger River) and their overall majesty while contrasting it with the challenges, pitfalls, and opportunities that Europe's domination created.  This idea seems most prominent in the following paragraph which seems to be the key point of Achebe's story: 

"When Umuru was a little village, there was an age-grade who swept its market-square every Nkwo day. But progress had turned it into a busy, sprawling, crowded and dirty river port, a no-man's-land where strangers outnumbered by far the sons of the soil, who could do nothing about it except shake their heads at this gross perversion of their prayer. For indeed they had prayed--who will blame them--for their town to grow and prosper. And it had grown. But there is good growth and there is bad growth. The belly does not bulge out only with food and drink; it might be the abominable disease which would end by sending its sufferer out of the house even before he was fully dead."

The story didn't grab me as much and I think that's because in this instance, Acheve was putting so much into the story and yet, I don't fully get the references and allusions.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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