In "Things Fall Apart," what did Chielo want with Ezinma?
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Ekwefi does not follow Chielo and Ezinma in the cave but sits on a stone ledge outside, to be joined by Okonkwo.
Reading guides suggest Chielo takes Ezinma to the cave to cure her of her sickness, but her iyi-uwa (evil charm) has already been dug up and Okonkwo has cured her last illness. Here Ezinma is vivacious, listening to folk tales, and is about to start another she has learned--an example of Ibo "schooling" where one woman teaches a girl of the next generation. This and other hints have led many of my classes to conclude that Chielo is beginning to initiate Ezinma in the secret knowledge of Agbala, preparatory to her becoming the next priestess.
Several clues support this conclusion, although it goes no further due to Okonkwo's exile. Chielo calls Ezinma "my daughter" and clearly has an interest in her. Second is the reference to an earlier generation's priestess, Chika, who Unoka visits. This suggests that each generation needs to find the next priestess, who would certainly undergo a lengthy apprenticeship to learn the oracle's esoteric knowledge. Third is Ezinma's nature; she is a quick learner, wise beyond her years, and clever. Then comes the announcement that Agbala wants to see her, the ritual touring of the nine villages and the entry into the cave on one of the darkest nights of the month.
Ironically, there is no follow-up to this possibility, yet it does make sense and makes the repercussions of Okonkwo's exile even more tragic.
Chielo is a priestess and she tells Ezinma's mother that Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves, wants to see Ezinma. This is very frightening to both Ekwefi and Owkwonkwo because Ezinma is their favorite child. The next day, Chielo takes Ezinma and does not want her parents to follow them. Both parents do follow while Chielo takes Ezinma to nine villages and then the cave of Agbala. Ekwefi, even follows them into the cave,something that usually only a man would do.
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