Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Things Fall Apart Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis

One morning, the village is shaken by the news that Ogbuefi Ezeudu, the oldest man in Iguedo, has died. Everyone attends his funeral. One egwugwu even gets violent in his grief. Ezeudu took three titles in his life, conferring him the right to be buried at night in a sacred ceremony. Before he's buried, there's much tumult and dancing, and guns are fired in his honor, as when a soldier is buried. A one-handed spirit then comes to beseech Ezeudu's spirit to be reborn just as he was: an infinitely brave warrior and a good man. Then, when the dancing begins again, Okonkwo's pistol explodes and a piece of shrapnel pierces Ezeudu's son's heart, killing him. For this accident, Okonkwo is exiled to his mother's village of Mbanta for seven years. Thus ends Part I.

Motifs

Fire. The day after Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeudu's son, Obierika and other men from the village burn Okonkwo's compound to the ground and slaughter his animals. This is their way of cleansing the land of their clansman's blood. Achebe again uses fire as a destructive force, allowing the fire to reduce Okonkwo's home to ashes. This symbolizes the end of Okonkwo's greatness.

Symbols

Blood. Blood has several different meanings. It can be shed righteously, as in war, or it can be shed in an dirty or offensive way, becoming like a pollutant that sullies the earth. In this context, blood isn't a symbol of glory or victory but, rather, a potent symbol of danger and evil. Its influence must be counterbalanced in order to appease the gods. Hence, the destruction of Okonkwo's compound.

Coffin. One of the egwugwu , a one-handed spirit carrying a bucket of water, wears a costume that makes him look like a coffin. This coffin is a clear symbol of death, emphasizing the fact that death can be ugly, smelly, and horrific. Men run away from this spirit. People give him room...

(The entire section is 642 words.)