Last Updated on April 23, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 501
In Okonkwo's second year of exile, Obierika comes to visit him. Obierika has been taking care of Okonkwo's business affairs for him and has brought him the profits from the sale of his yams. As the friends talk, Obierika relates the sad story of Abame, a clan that was wiped out by white men. The clan's Oracle called the white men locusts, and this led some of the great men of their village to kill a white man. In retribution, the white men came one day when everyone was at the market and slaughtered them all. Only a few men got away and were able to tell the story.
Okonkwo says that the Abame were fools for killing the first white man, because it's dumb to kill a man who says nothing. You don't know what he wants, and the silence is ominous. Okonkwo is afraid that the Abame are just the first and that more clans will be wiped out. He's heard all of the stories about white men making guns, drinking alcohol, and selling African slaves overseas. He'd never believed the stories before, but now he realizes that the white men are a threat.
Change. Unsurprisingly, the changes taking place in Umuofia and Mbanta upset Okonkwo, who has lived his entire life according to a strict set of rules and customs that determine how powerful a man is, how respectable he will be, and what constitutes masculinity. With the changes in his country, it's easy to see why Okonkwo would feel that he is losing his identity. His way of life is in peril, and the changes in Umuofia, though inevitable, aren't for the better.
Colonization. Achebe spent the first third of the novel worldbuilding, introducing readers to a culture and place that's likely very different from their own. He does this so the reader will understand, when white men begin colonizing Umuofia, what is at stake and what will, in the end, be destroyed: a culture and a way of life that has existed for centuries, if not longer. Achebe uses colonization to impress upon the reader that things can fall apart on both a personal and national scale and that, for some, the two are inextricably linked.
Suicide. Achebe frequently references suicide in the novel, using these references to foreshadow the final, tragic scene of the novel, in which Okonkwo is found dead, the victim of an apparent suicide. As Achebe builds this theme, he offers several different reasons why a man might commit suicide in this society: because he has been exiled, because he has buried his children, or because his friend has asked him to do so as a sign of thanks (Obierika makes this request of Okonkwo in jest, as an indirect way of saying that Okonkwo doesn't need to thank him at all). Though there is still much debate over Okonkwo's reasons for committing suicide, one could make the argument that all the reasons listed here influence his ultimate decision.
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