How did the village view Okonkwo after his suicide in Things Fall Apart?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Through his suicide, Okonkwo has, according to tribal beliefs, committed the ultimate desecration of the Earth's order.  No one from the tribe can touch his body; they must send for strangers, whom they will even pay, to cut him down from the tree from which he has hanged himself.  When asked by the District Commissioner why the tribesmen cannot take the body down themselves, Obierika, Okonkwo's friend, explains,

"It is against our custom...it is an abomination for a man to take his own life.  It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen.  His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it".

"Only after Okonkwo's body has been buried will the tribe then be able to "do (their) duty by him".  They will make sacrifices, "to cleanse the desecrated land".

Okonkwo has killed a messenger of the white man, who represents all that he hates and fears.  Under the influence of the imperialists, his once strong and warlike tribe has changed, and are gradually leaving the old traditions behind.  When the officials come to take Okonkwo into custody after the murder, the mighty warrior knows he is beaten, and hangs himself from a tree.  In life, he was famous among his tribesmen, but in death he is anathema.  As Obierika tells the District Commissioner bitterly,

"That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia.  You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog..." (Chapter 25).