Last Updated on January 3, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 475
When the district commissioner arrives at Okonkwo’s compound, he sees a group of Okonkwo’s friends sitting in his obi, or his hut. They tell the district commissioner that Okonkwo has hung himself from a tree behind his compound. They can’t cut his body down because it’s forbidden to touch a man who has committed suicide. Obierika blames the white men for Okonkwo’s suicide. “You drove him to kill himself,” Obierika says, “and now he will be buried like a dog.” Suicide is considered an abomination in Igbo culture, and because of this, Okonkwo won’t get the funeral he deserves. After the court messengers cut the body down, the district commissioner walks away, thinking what a great anecdote this will be in the book he’s writing about Nigeria. The working title is The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.
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Funerals. This is the third death we’ve directly witnessed in the novel. Achebe has mentioned many others, and these have all resulted in honorable funerals commensurate with the deceased’s social status. Okonkwo, who would’ve received a funeral like Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s, won’t be buried by his family. Strangers will have to do it for him, and no one will celebrate his life.
Guns. Like Okonkwo’s pistol, the guns the court messengers carry symbolize death and destruction. In spite of the fact that these guns aren’t fired in this chapter, they represent the vast, oppressive new power structure that the colonists have imposed on the Igbo.
Evil. Thanks to the suicide, Okonkwo’s body is considered “evil,” and his clansmen can’t touch it—not even to bury him. Though he was a great warrior in his life and took many titles, that’s all erased, and none of the good he did in his life will be taken into consideration. He’ll be buried like a dog. This indicates that there are no shades of gray in Igbo culture. There’s only “evil” and “not evil,” and in the case of suicide, a man will be judged more by how he dies than how he lives.
Suicide. Suicide is an abomination in Igbo culture. Okonkwo’s suicide makes his body “evil,” much in the same way that suicide is considered a sin by Christians. Like disease, suicide strips a person of the right to a proper burial. Though Okonkwo won’t be thrown into the Evil Forest, like someone who has died of smallpox, he won’t be afforded the funeral he deserves, and his family won’t get to mourn him properly. His greatness has effectively been erased, and he will be remembered as a mere paragraph in the district commissioner’s racist, colonialist, narcissistic book about the “pacification” (read: destruction) of the native people of Nigeria.