Illustration of a person holding their head next to a noose and a detached head

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Start Free Trial

In Things Fall Apart, what beneficial Igbo practice was seen as an abomination by outsiders?

Quick answer:

The Igbo practice of exile for Christian converts ensures that their village will retain its traditional culture, religion, and way of life.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

An Igbo practice that is viewed as an abomination by outsiders concerns the exile of Christian converts. Any villager who chooses to abandon the Igbo religion and traditional customs is considered an abomination and exiled from the village and community. The converts are shunned by their neighbors and family members, which is a practice that the colonists believe is extremely harsh and unfair.

Once Nwoye converts to Christianity, Okonkwo disowns him and treats him as an outcast. Nwoye's decision to convert to Christianity is viewed as an abomination to the Igbo ancestors and is considered an unforgivable sin. Despite the harsh punishment, it is necessary for the Igbo villagers to treat converts with such hostility in order to preserve their culture, religion, and traditional way of life. By treating converts as exiles and disowning them, the fear of losing one's friends and family becomes a deterrent, which protects the traditional Igbo culture. Igbo villagers who may be interested in converting to new religions may decide to remain faithful to their traditional culture in order to preserve and maintain relationships with their friends and family.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One example of an Ibo custom that was good for their people, but seen as an abomination to the colonialists was the practice of banishing those afflicted with “the swelling” into the woods to die.  Although this may seem like a harsh custom, it was a necessary one in such a small society.   We can presume a couple of things—first, that the Ibo people had no medicinal cure for this mysterious disease and, secondly, that it was contagious.  Therefore, it was necessary to remove those afflicted with this condition in order to make sure that their entire tribe was not wiped out by disease.  Even if, let’s say, twenty percent of the population were affected by the disease, that would seriously jeopardize the lives of the WHOLE tribe because they were so interdependent in terms of growing yams which sustain their lives.  This is just one example of the many customs that seem brutal, but are crucial to the survival of such a small community that is extremely dependent upon one another.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial