Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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In Chapter 10 we learn about the legal system of the tribe in Things Fall Apart. How does this legal system compare with the American legal system?

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When seeking to understand in what ways, if any, the legal system that Chinua Achebe depicts in his epic work Things Fall Apart compares with the American legal system, it is best that we examine the system of judgment and punishment that governs the people of Umuofia.

There are several distinct features found in Umuofia’s legal system that most Americans would protest. Within Umuofia, an extremely patriarchal society, women are not allowed to participate in legal proceedings. They are only allowed to watch the process, which includes an accuser issuing a complaint against an accused person, who is allowed to mount a defense against the charges. The above proceedings occur in front of nine masked figures, the egwugwu, who served as judges. As with all other things in Umuofia before European colonization, the legal system rests solely on tradition. Hence, it is understandable that a masked egwugwu represents each of the nine villages. After the presentation of the cases, the nine spirits, led by the Evil Forest spirit, retreat from public view to deliberate. The egwugwu announces the verdict in public.

There are obvious similarities between the legal systems of Umuofia and the United States of America, such as the presence of a...

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