Chinua Achebe was a novelist, poet, critic, professor from Nigeria. He is remembered most for his first novel Things Fall Apart (1958). In modern literature it is the most circulated and widely read book. He was fascinated with traditional African cultures as well as world religions. Achebe has started writing stories when he was a university student. We will be surprised to know that he has also written some best short stories. Stories like Dead men’s path are the best example of individualism. In most of his short stories we can find the cultural values of Africa. Optimism and traditional belief system is loaded with values in most of his novels as well as short stories. It is known to us that Africa was a colony of Portugal, United Kingdom, France and several nations. In the writings of Achebe we can find the agony of colonization. How people were ill-treated by the colonizers and how they were transformed either by their will or force. It can be traced in the novels like Heart of Darkness written by Joseph Conrad. It was the greatness of Achebe that he could not take the subject of colonization as for granted and refuse to accept the white man’s burden. This is one of the reasons that he openly accused Conrad as a bloody racist. In Civil Peace we can see the results of the Nigerian Civil War. Jonathan Iwegbu is a character in this story who fights for the right cause. In most of his short stories we can find some historical references which illuminate the cultural diversity of Africa. Vengeful Creditor is another story which is very interesting to read. Free education and its effect can be found in this story. Servants of a wealthy woman leave her services because they want to be educated. It also highlights the problem of social inequality of Africa. Themes like racial segregation, apartheid, colonialism are common in his novels as well as short stories. He writes to develop an insight for justice and social equality. This is one of the reasons that there are so many young writers who were influenced by his art of writing. He wants to prove that blacks are not weak and Africa too has tradition and culture. Nobody should dare to think that Africa has no roots of tradition and culture. The psychological advancements of black natives have been successfully presented by writers like Chinua Achebe. It is interesting to find that a common culture acts like a connecting link between his short stories and novels. In Dead Men’s Path a young man is appointed as a headmaster of a school. Michael Obi is the young protagonist who takes the charge of the headmaster in a school of village Ndume. He is young and dynamic who is morally strong. He wants to reform the existing education system with his new ideas. His methods of teaching are new and advanced. By educating the villagers he wants to change their superstitious beliefs. For the development of the village he also strengthens the religious beliefs of the villagers. Students and villagers are attracted towards him but he fails at last. One day he notices a woman cutting across the garden of the school. He wants to stop her and for this he orders to cover the footpath with wires. This decision of Obi is considered offensive by the villagers because of their superstitious beliefs. The footpath was sacred and ancestral as it was connected with the cemetery. Obi is fired from his post and his hopes are shattered. He acts like an anti-hero and villagers finds him misleading only because of their superstitious beliefs. Joseph Conrad has given an account of Africa on the basis of superstitions practiced there. It is interesting to quote him here-

“[Marlow]: “Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency—the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it’s the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea”.1

This account of Conrad clearly reveals that a brute force was enacted like a tool to colonize Africa. Achebe wants to assert that it is the home affairs of any country and in every tradition and culture there are certain loopholes and it does not mean that Africa has no culture. Achebe has said in An image of Africa: racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness that Conrad’s viewpoint hardly matters because he is a racist. A quotation from the novel Heart of Darkness is worth mentioning-

“It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream–making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams…No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream-alone…”2

Conrad has written the above mentioned lines because he was scared of the barbarians. He thinks that Africans were barbarians and they need to be civilized.

Achebe is authoritative in terms of individuality and it is interesting to find that his individualism is blended with optimism. In Civil Peace Jonathan is calm and optimistic in approach. He fears that he might be robbed because of the social unrest. He is robbed in reality and it seems that he was already prepared for it. Vengeful Creditor is another story which is related to effects of education in the society. There are certain comic elements in this story. We can also find class struggle in this story. Mr. and Mrs. Emenike represent the upper class society of Nigeria.  Their servants are downtrodden and uneducated. In the society people are talking about a proposed bill related to free education. Poor and the downtrodden wants to get benefit of this bill and it creates a problem in the society. People belonging to rich class lose their servants because of this bill. Thus it brings certain comic elements in the story. Scholars and critics have a common viewpoint that Achebe’s art of characterization is unique. His short stories are as appealing as his novels.