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Chike and the River

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Grade 6 | Informative | Text-Dependent 


Learning Standards


Read the following excerpt from the novel Chike and the River.  Write an essay explaining how the author of the excerpt constructs Chike’s point of view. Then show how Chike helps develop what you believe to be the theme of the novel. Use evidence from the excerpt to support your points.


Chike and the River

by Chinua Achebe


Chike heard the headmaster shout, “Abraham!” and stood up to see what was happening. Some other boys had also stood up. It was a trap. The headmaster picked out all those who had stood up and sent them to carry a missionary’s luggage to the village of Okikpe.


“It is the price you have to pay for being overcurious,” said the headmaster and he told them the proverb about the overcurious monkey who got a bullet in the brain. 

            Everyone laughed at the boys who had fallen into the headmaster’s trap. 


Okikpe was six miles away by road. Somewhere on this road there was a bridge across the River Nkisa. But this bridge had been washed away by heavy rains. The missionary’s luggage was loaded into a lorry. The seven boys who had been picked out were to travel in lorry as far as the bridge. Then they would get down and carry the loads across the stream and on to Okikpe, which was two miles from  the river. 

The boys were scared. But the driver of the lorry told them that the river was shallow at that point. Still they were afraid, especially Chike who did not know how to swim. 

The lorry started and Chike felt like a condemned prisoner. Some of the older boys frightened him more by telling stories of people who had been drowned while fording the river. 

“There are stones on the riverbed and if you miss your step once you are finished,” said Mark. 

Mark was a very big boy who was no good as his classwork. The other boys made fun of him and called him Papa.

“I know someone who went across it yesterday and he said it was five feet deep,” continued Mark. 

“I shall refuse to go across,” said Chike. 

“Well, you can wait with your own share of the luggage until they rebuild the bridge,” said Mark, who was enjoying himself enormously. Some of the bigger boys laughed. 


At last they got to the river and the lorry stopped. Chike had taken a private decision to turn round if the water rose higher than his waist. After the luggage had been unloaded Mark said that it should be divided into seven equal loads. “After all we are all in the same class. We are all equal.” 

But the driver of the lorry was kind and gave only a small basket to Chike. 

Then each boy took off his clothes, wrapped them into a bundle and carried them with the load on the head. Mark walked straight into the river and began to ford it. Some local people were coming over from the other side. A sudden feeling of defiance came upon Chike and he followed Mark. Some of the bigger boys who had been laughing and boasting were now hanging back. The water rose to Chike’s chest at its deepest point but he did not turn back. Once he stepped on a slippery stone and nearly fell. But he quickly regained his balance. The water which had been growing deeper and deeper was now becoming shallow again. Chike was pleased with himself. 

Soon he was on dry ground. He turned round proudly to see the other struggling through. 

The rest of the journey was uneventful. But the experience had been very important to Chike. It has given him a good deal of confidence in himself. He felt that any person who could ford a river deserved praise. There was one proverb which Chike’s uncle was fond of saying: It is bad that a man who has swum in the great River Niger should be drowned in its small tributary. It means that a man who has passed a big test should not fail a small one. Chike made a new proverb of his own. He said: A man who can walk through the Nkisa with his bare feet should not be afraid to sail the Niger in a boat.

“Chike and the River,” by Chinua Achebe. Copyright © 1966.

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Last modified
13:43, 18 Apr 2016


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