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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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What is Obierika's view on Okonkwo's role in Ikemefuna's death?

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The logical, thoughtful Obierika acts as a foil to the more impulsive Okonkwo. Though sympathetic to Okonkwo over the death of his son, he still strongly disapproves of Okonkwo's part in Ikemefuna's brutal murder. As a man of reason who detests violence, Obierika cannot but condemn the ritualistic slaughter of this young man out of superstition and ignorance. Obierika understands the importance of the old traditions, but at the same time he knows that Okonkwo's role in his son's murder is completely unnecessary, even from the standpoint of tribal custom. Obierika can sense that Okonkwo is simply trying to prove himself once more, to show the other villagers that he's not like his father, that he isn't a weak man, and that he does take his responsibilities to the tribe seriously. In other words, Okonkwo acts selfishly in participating in his son's murder, and he cynically uses obedience to tribal custom as an excuse.

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Obierika is like Ezeudu who warned Okonkwo not to participate in the death of Ikemefuna because the boy called Okonkwo "father". Obierika is more balanced than Okonkwo and appears to be able to balance tradition with practical concerns. Obierika questions the morality of his friend's participation in the killing of Ikemufuna. He says he would have respected the Oracle, who called for the boy's death, but he would have not taken part in the ritual killing because the Oracle did not ask him to participate and he would not have killed someone who considered him to be his father.

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