Last Updated on December 29, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 616
One night, the town crier runs through the village, telling all the men to gather at the market that next morning. A girl from their village has been killed, the elders say, by men from Mbaino, one of the rival villages. Their course of action is clear: to present the...
(The entire section contains 616 words.)
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One night, the town crier runs through the village, telling all the men to gather at the market that next morning. A girl from their village has been killed, the elders say, by men from Mbaino, one of the rival villages. Their course of action is clear: to present the bigger, stronger Umuofia with a sacrifice of a young man and a virgin or else prepare to fight a war. Naturally, Mbaino chooses the latter, and the girl is married off to the man whose wife was killed. The boy, however, is sent to live with Okonkwo and will later meet a terrible fate. His name is Ikemefuna, and he’s afraid. He has been taken from his home and is terrified of Okonkwo. He doesn’t know the girl who’d been brought with him from Mbaino, and he never sees her again.
Achebe frequently uses repetition to emphasize sounds, such as when he repeats the call “Gome, gome, gome, gome” and describes the crier’s voice as growing “dimmer and dimmer.” This has the effect of aligning the reader with Okonkwo, from whose perspective we hear the voice grow dimmer and dimmer as the crier moves farther and farther away.
Human Heads. Okonkwo has five human heads, which he carried home as trophies from battles. Each of these heads is a symbol of Okonkwo’s incredible brutality, both as a warrior and a person. That he uses the skull of his first human head as a drinking goblet demonstrates that he’s an often ruthless and heartless character. However, it’s important to remember that in his culture, this is not an entirely uncommon practice and that he’s respected for the head collection modern readers might find macabre.
Evil. In Igbo culture, it’s common practice to protect oneself from evil spirits, which can take many forms, including snakes, dangerous animals, and disembodied voices. Tradition holds that one is never to call a snake by its name or whistle at all at night for fear of evil spirits. Western readers will likely think of these as “superstitions.” However, it’s important to remember that this book is about a different culture and that belief in evil spirits is part of the Igbo religion. Henceforth, any and all “superstitions” will be referred to as essential parts of Igbo spiritual practices.
Justice. When Okonkwo travels to Mbaino to give their village elders an ultimatum, he’s armed with the knowledge that, if it comes to war, his will be a “just war,” meaning one that has a just cause, and that no one can dispute Umuofia’s reasons for giving Mbaino this ultimatum. Justice to them is a kind of balance: when one person wrongs you, then they must pay you for this wrong at an equal or greater value, whether it be in money, people, or yams. Later in the novel, we’ll see somebody who kills a sacred python take suddenly ill and die. The villagers think this fair and consider the matter resolved.
Nature. Igbo peoples have a strong connection with nature, and their gods are all connected in some way to the natural world, like Ani, the earth goddess. Their religion consists of a complex network of beliefs and practices that incorporate offerings to the gods, communication with the spirits, and a strong belief in evil spirits, animals, and omens. Okonkwo’s exile is an attempt on the part of the village elders to counterbalance and punish his misdeeds before the gods can intercede. In this, it becomes clear that the Igbo gods are both revered and feared. No one, not even Okonkwo, is safe from their judgment.