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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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter 10 gives us a real insight into the tribe and in particular their way of settling disputes. We are told that trials happen in the centre of the village. Only men are allowed to participate and women are only allowed to observe. The "judges" take the form of egwugwu, who are the nine masked spirits of the clan, each of whom represent one of the villages in Umuofia. The leader is called Evil Forest, and he has a terrifying appearance. Having heard all the evidence, the egwugwu confer together in a hut before Evil Forest pronounces the verdict of the egwugwu.

Clearly there are some similarities between the American legal system and this legal system, but also some blatant differences. The egwugwu are held as spiritual forces and fear is a part of their identity:

The egwugwu with the springy walk was one of the dead fathers of the clan. He looked terrible with the smoked raffia body, a huge wooden face painted white except for the round hollow eyes and the charred teeth that were as big as a man's gingers. On his head were two powerful horns.

The way that fear and superstition are built in to the Ibo legal system is one obvious difference, as is the exclusion of women. However, the fact that the egwugwu are selected, one from each village, and that they confer before pronouncing a judgement, gives this legal system a representative nature, that is similar. Likewise the members of the tribe are able to call on the egwugwu to pronounce judgement if they want to, and of course in America we can take something to the courts if we feel strongly enough about it.

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