Nwaka is Ezeulu’s nemesis. Every time we see Nwaka in Arrow of God, he’s challenging Ulu or criticizing Ulu’s high priest, Ezeulu. Nwaka believes strongly that Ezeulu is power-hungry, that he’s trying to grab more authority than he is due.
Nwaka appears to be motivated by his friendship with Ezidemili, the priest of a lesser god, Idemili. Ezidemili fortifies and strengthens Nwaka in his attacks on Ezeulu’s character. Nwaka might be power hungry himself, or he might be manipulated by Ezidemili, who may be hoping to destroy Ulu so that Idemili can take his place.
Though we don’t see any growth in Nwaka’s character over the course of the novel, he does accompany the other men when they visit Ezeulu to beg him to announce the day for the Feast for the New Yam. In other words, he squashes whatever enmity he has towards Ezeulu for the good of all of Umuaro.
Winterbottom is old-school British military: dutiful, patriotic, and obedient to commands from his superiors, even when he disagrees with their orders. At first, we assume Winterbottom simply likes his powerful position when he brags about his reputation in Umuaro. But soon we discover that Winterbottom really believes in the African projects. And not only that, but he holds himself to very high moral standards because he wants to be an example to the Africans around him.
We can see that the Administration’s inflexibility and lack of respect for experienced men like Winterbottom who have lived in Africa for years eats away at him. In the final scene, Winterbottom expresses total contempt for the orders of his superior.
Obika is Ezeulu’s son and is an irresponsible young man who drinks too much and acts impulsively. One example of his impulsive behavior is the time when he almost kills his half-sister’s husband. Everybody lets Obika get away with his rash actions, however, because he’s so handsome. In the course of the novel, Obika changes. Two things change him: the humiliation of being whipped publicly by the white man and getting married. His marriage in particular seems to help Obika to grow. But Obika doesn’t have a chance to explore his new found maturity and wisdom. Almost as soon as he gains it, he dies suddenly.
Oduche, Ezeulu’s next to youngest son, is proud to be his father’s “eyes and ears” in the white man’s culture by attending church and school. But soon, he finds his loyalties are divided. On the one hand, he wants to please his father; on the other hand, he wants to please the catechist at church. He can’t do both. There are two critical moments in Arrow of God when Oduche chooses the church over his father, and Ezeulu interprets it as a betrayal.
The first moment is when Oduche locks the royal python up in his box, hoping it will asphyxiate and die. It’s an act of rebellion but, more importantly, it’s a moment when Oduche tests the taboos of his culture. He discovers that there is no real penalty to his actions. Though Ezeulu rages against him, and though the village talks about what he has done, Oduche suffers no serious consequences.
Based on the fact that there seem to be no repercussions for his actions, Oduche commits a second act that his father considers a betrayal. When the catechist decides to take advantage of Ezeulu’s stubbornness and the famine to encourage people to leave the old religion and become Christians, Oduche doesn’t mention it to his father. Although Ezeulu intended Oduche to be his eyes and ears, he doesn’t realize that Oduche’s exposure to another way of life and another god will change him into somebody who no longer fits in his own culture.
Edogo seems like a good-hearted man. He loves his wife and his child and worries about their health. He is respectful to his father and fulfills his duties to his family. But deep down inside, he resents the way his father, Ezeulu, favors Nwafo over all his other sons.
Though Edogo doesn’t want to be chief priest of Ulu himself, he realizes that his father may be creating a mess by giving Nwafo the impression that he will be the new priest. Ulu is the one who chooses the new priest, not Ezeulu. Because Ezeulu sent Oduche to school and to church to learn the ways of the white man, Edogo realizes that his father may be sacrificing Oduche in order to clear the way for Nwafo.
Edogo finally approaches Ezeulu’s best friend, Akuebue, and asks him to speak to his father. Akuebue despises Edogo in that moment, suggesting that he’s cowardly and weak; he implies that Edogo really wants to be priest and that he is hiding behind this excuse. At least on the surface, though, Edogo seems to be an honest man, with only one desire – to be a renowned mask carver.
Tony Clarke starts out with some progressive ideas about colonialism in Africa. He feels the call of duty to “civilize” Africa, but he believes there must be some good in indigenous institutions, and that they should be preserved. Though he belongs to the officer class, he feels more comfortable with men like Wright, who may be morally questionable but seem to have less of a superiority complex than men like Winterbottom.
Ultimately, however, Clarke begins to realize that he’s surrounded by men who are corrupt in some way or another – if not morally, then ideologically. There is no resolution to this aspect in his character however. When we last see Clarke, he is releasing Ezeulu after receiving orders from the Administration that they don’t plan to continue appointing new chiefs. In the end it seems that Clarke is slavishly obedient to the whims of the Administration, despite his moral qualms.
Moses Unachukwu is the first Christian in Umuaro. Having spent several years on a mission station in a neighboring region, and as the only man in all of Umuaro who speaks English, he feels like something of a local expert.
The people do admire Moses for his skill, but the new catechist at the church, Mr. Goodcountry, thinks he’s uppity. The two clash over whether Christians should try to destroy the royal python, a taboo in Umuaro. Moses believes they should leave those symbols alone, while Mr. Goodcountry argues that Christians need to be willing to be martyred for their faith. Moses wins by writing to the bishop and asking for his support. The bishop does offer his support, and Moses wins that round of the battle.
Eventually, the men reconcile and Moses supports Mr. Goodcountry when he decides the church can profit by inviting the people of Umuaro to sacrifice their yams to the Christian god instead of to Ulu.
Mr. Wright provides a great contrast with Mr. Clarke and Captain Winterbottom. As a fellow Briton, he’s just as immersed in the colonial project as they are. But he chooses a different path. Though he clearly feels superior to the Africans he works with, he isn’t bound by any ethical considerations to treat them fairly. He uses violence when it suits him, and he sleeps with African women when it suits him. He feels little solidarity with his fellow countrymen. Though he befriends Mr. Clarke, it’s at Winterbottom’s expense – the two men bond while disparaging their boss.