What role do women of Umuofia have in the decision on what to do about the murder of a woman from their clan?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 2 of Things Fall Apart, the women of Umuofia have little influence in deciding the murder case of an Umuofian woman.  In fact, the arrangement is an entirely male enterprise, and the women--by in large--are at the mercy of the male decision.  However, two women (the Priestess and the old medicine woman) have a "trump card up their sleeves," and they play it wisely to avert war.

After the village of Mbaino killed a woman from Umuofia, the elders, led by Odbuefi Ezeugo, calls a war council in which an ultimatum is given: war or a peace offering.  As the people of Mbaino fear the war and magic of Umuofia, the latter is agreed upon: they will offer a young man and a virgin as compensation.

The only mention of women from Umuofia is the agadi-nwayi, or the old medicine woman.  She is a one-legged medicine woman whose shrine, in the center of Umuofia, serves as an omen to other villages and Umuofia itself.  In fact, if the Oracle of the Hills and Caves, led by the Priestess of Agbala, does not sanction the war, then it is forbidden to fight a "war of blame."

The old women of Umuofia, the priestess and the medicine woman, serve to balance the male tribal leaders.  Whereas the women council peace, the men wish to rush into war.  However, the women cause the men to temper their sense of revenge and take the peace offering.  Since Umuofia is such a male-dominated society, women seem to only have a voice when they use religion and magic--a sense of magic and mystery that instill psychological fear in the men.

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Things Fall Apart

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