Emenike dies suddenly, after a full recovery from injuries he suffered during a fight with Madume, his neighbor and adversary, over some disputed farmland. Although the villagers are uncertain about the cause of death, and even though they suspect that Madume had a hand in Emenike’s death, they say Emenike died from “lock chest.” Ignoring the arbitration on the land dispute that the village elders and priests made in favor of Emenike, and with Emenike out of the way, Madume decides to stake his claim on the disputed farmland. While at it, he claims Ihuoma, whom he alleges Emenike snatched from him. In a show of power, Madume embarks on assaults on Ihuoma and her brother-in-law, Nnadi, as they try to protect Emenike’s land and crops from Madume’s “big eyes.” A series of misfortunes, brought on by personal ill will, inordinate greed, and insensitivity, befall Madume until excessive cockiness and a final act of brazenness bring him face-to-face with a spitting cobra, which blinds him as he reaches in defiantly to harvest a plantain tree on Emenike’s farm. Blinded and miserable, Madume hangs himself. The villagers agree that his abominable death is retributive justice from the ever-watchful, powerful gods. Though finally rid of Madume, Ihuoma characteristically bemoans the loss of two village men in a two-year span, fearing that there will be “too few left to organize village activities.”
Young, already a mother of three children, and widowed at the tender age of twenty-two, Ihuoma continues to live out her widowhood in her dead husband’s compound, devoted to his memory and care of her children. More attractive than ever even in her misfortune, Ihuoma commands great respect from the village women, especially Madume’s wife, Wolu. Ekwueme, the gifted...
(The entire section is 728 words.)