How does Okonkwo's suicide represent a break in the traditional Igbo culture?

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Suicide is a grave sin in the Igbo culture. The other men in Okonkwo's clan tell the District Commissioner that because Okonkwo has killed himself, his body is now evil, and they are not allowed to touch it. They have sent for people from a distant tribe to help them take the body down from the tree where Okonkwo hung himself. They also ask the Commissioner to help them with this task. Usually, the Igbo are very respectful of the dead and have specific ceremonies that they follow whenever one of their clan dies. Suicide, however, goes against their beliefs and is considered an affront to the spirits, so the normally tight-knit clan is forced to break with their traditional burial ceremonies.

Okonkwo is so intent on not becoming like his father, unworthy and weak, but by committing suicide, he makes himself unworthy and ironically, even more cut off and disrespected by his clan. He does not have any concern for his clan, however, and how his suicide would affect them. He is only concerned about himself. He did the same thing when he committed murder earlier in the novel and was exiled from his own village for many years. Again, his clan was forced to suffer the humiliation that he caused them, but he was only focused on himself.

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