In traditional Igbo culture in Things Fall Apart, how are the deaths of children explained?

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The problem of infant death is explored in chapter 9 of Things Fall Apart. While there are many possible causes for death at a young age, the concept of the ogbanje figures into one common Igbo explanation for an infant’s death. Okwonko and his wife Ekwefi have suffered the...

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The problem of infant death is explored in chapter 9 of Things Fall Apart. While there are many possible causes for death at a young age, the concept of the ogbanje figures into one common Igbo explanation for an infant’s death. Okwonko and his wife Ekwefi have suffered the deaths of their infant children. This is one reason why they worry so much when their daughter Ezinma falls ill. The ogbanje is a spirit, sometimes called a changeling, who is neither content to stay on earth nor able to leave it completely. They remain connected to a particular place by burying a stone, or iyi-uwa. Once the baby holding this spirit passes away, the spirit keeps getting reborn into another infant, who in turn does not thrive and dies as well.

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