Describe how their religious beliefs influence their daily lives in Things Fall Apart?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Religion in Things Fall Apart is integrated into the culture as a whole.  Unlike many Westerners--who segregate religion from work or education--the Igbo clan practice religion in all aspects of everyday life, whether it is during the Week of Peace, the New Yam Festival, or Market Week.

Religion in the novel is mainly derived from the feminine.  Since the Igbo are an agricultural tribe, they pay homage to the Earth goddess Ani during the New Yam Festival.  The yam, a male symbol, must be placed in the Earth, the female, to grow.  Thus, she must be honored before planting season.  Okonkwo resents this, and he beats his third wife as a result.

Also, the priestess of the Oracle, Chielo, is the spokeswoman of the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves.  As such, she wields as much power--or more--than the male tribal elders.  Many males of the patriarchy, therefore, resent her prophecies.  For example, Okonkwo resents her taking Enzimna on her back, forbidding any male to follow.  Also, Okonkwo resents her declaring that his adopted son Ikemefuna be put to death, and he kills the lad himself, it seems, to spite her.

So, there is much tension between Okonkwo's male ideal-which is based on practicality and hard work--and the feminine religious ideal--which is based more on mystery.  Okonkwo's stubborn repudiation of the feminine religious customs of his tribe--especially the one which says he must be exiled to his Motherland--produces much male backlash and contributes to his suicide in the end.

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Things Fall Apart

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