Language Implications for Peace or War: Exploring How the use of Language led to war between Umuaro and Okperi in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God in the Light of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Language

Greg Ekeh


This paper explored the conflict between Umuaro and Okperi (Fictitious Igbo towns) in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God (A novel written by Chinua Achebe in 1965, which is a picture of struggle and dialectics between Igbo culture/religion and imported European culture/religion) in the light of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language. The aim of the paper was to show how the use and understanding made of language can have implications for peace or war, between individuals or communities. The goal is to contribute to the promotion of peace through appropriate use and understanding of language. Philosophical method of analysis was applied in discussing Wittgenstein’s views on language as well as extracts from Arrow of God. The extracts hinged on the utterances among the elders of Umuaro, as well as between Umuaro’s emissaries led by Akukalia and the elders of Okperi, which eventually culminated in a war between Umuaro and Okperi. The findings of the study showed that use of words and languages can lead to peace or war, by their implications, understanding and context. The conclusion was that understanding and applying Wittgenstein’s view of language as a social practice through meaning as use, language-games, rule-following, grammar and form of life can help people, especially those in positions of authority, power and influence, to make good choice of words and languages in their speeches or utterances – words and languages that promote peace instead of war or any kind of violence. Mahatma Gandhi was an example of such leaders, and it was recommended that today’s leaders emulate him, for a peaceful coexistence, especially as the present society is apparently enveloped in political tensions and struggle for supremacy in various dimensions.


Peace, Arrow of God, Wittgenstein, Philosophy, Language, War

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