Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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What is the importance of the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves in "Things Fall Apart"?

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In Umuofia, the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves is also revered for her clairvoyance or supernatural insight into the future. She is a kind of prophet, foretelling what Umuofia's future will hold.

In the novel, Chielo is the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves; she is also the priestess of Agbala. In ordinary life, she is a widow with two children, extremely friendly with Ekwefi (Okonkwo's second wife), and immensely fond of Ezinma (Ekwefi's only daughter). It is said that when the spirit of Agbala descends upon Chielo, she becomes a formidable prophet.

As Umuofia's revered prophet, Chielo plays an important role in guiding the tribe and deciding the fate of villagers. When the spirit of Agbala falls upon her one night, she demands the right to take Ezinma to the sacred shrine of Agbala in the caves. Ezinma's parents, however, are disturbed by Chielo's demands. Ezinma herself is reported to be dying, and Chielo's sudden, imperious order unsettles them. Yet, despite Okonkwo and Ekwefi's discomfort, Chielo is not to be denied; acting independently under the sole authority of Agbala, she retrieves Ezinma from her mother's hut. With Ezinma on her back, Chielo makes the rounds of the nine villages before coming to the caves. On the way to the caves, Chielo proclaims a special blessing upon Ezinma: "Life to you, my daughter."

In the sacred caves, Chielo greets her god in a variety of names: "the owner of the future, the messenger of earth, the god who cut a man down when his life was sweetest to him." Here, it can be seen that, as the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves, Chielo is the intermediary between the people of Umuofia and the gods. There is a strong suggestion that she takes Ezinma into temporary custody to heal her. Within the informal ecclesiastical construct of Umuofian religion, Chielo is the sole earthly authority. Even Okonkwo has to obey her.

In the story, Chielo's prophetic abilities are definitely central to Umuofian life. When a band of fugitives from Abame flee to Umuofia and...

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