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Study Guide: Okonkwo’s Rise to Power in Umuofia

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1 Study Guide: Okonkwo’s Rise to Power in Umuofia
Chapters 1-13 TEACHER

2 “Let me first make one general point that is fundamental and essential to the appreciation of African issues by Americans. Africans are people in the same way that Americans, Europeans, Asians, and others are people. Africans are not some strange beings with unpronounceable names and impenetrable minds. Although the action of Things Fall Apart takes place in a setting with which most Americans are unfamiliar, the characters are normal people and their events are real human events.” -Chinua Achebe

3 Conflicts Generational Okonkwo vs. Unoka Okonkwo vs. Nwoye Cultural
Ibo vs.Western Traditional vs. Christian Gender Okonkwo vs. his wives Inner Okonkwo vs. himself Nature Farmers vs. weather

4 Chapter 1 9 connected villages, including Okonkwo’s village, Iguedo
Okonkwo is a wealthy and respected warrior of the Umuofia clan Okonkwo won honor in his youth; he beat “Amalinze the Cat” in a wrestling match Unoka was his father, a “weak” man who always borrowed money and couldn’t pay his debts Unoka’s laziness meant his wife and children often went hungry Unoka was a skilled flute player and eloquent (skilled, excellent) speaker

5 Chapter 2 Town crier rings the ogene (gong) to let clansmen know they should gather in the market in the morning Orator (good speaker) Ogbuefi Ezeugo announces the murder of a woman in the market of neighboring village (Mbaino) Anger, indignation. As the fiercest warrior, Okonkwo chosen to deliver message to Mbaino; they must hand over a virgin and a young man or go to war Umuofia has reputation for fierce warriors, powerful magic Okonkwo has taken five human heads in past battles. He drinks palm-wine from his first head on important occasions. Mbaino agrees to Umuofia’s terms The boy, Ikemefuna, goes to Okonkwo for safekeeping Okonkwo instructs his first wife to care for Ikemefuna

6 Chapter 3 Unoka never had successful harvest, numerous debts unpaid, couldn’t afford titles. Lazy, Ill-fated, died of a shameful illness, “swelling which was an abomination to the earth goddess.” Unoka left in the Evil Forest to die (so as not to offend earth by being buried) Okonkwo builds fortune alone; starts as a sharecropper – becomes a warrior, farmer, and family provider His start: Nwakibie gives him 800 seed yams to start a farm (when Okonkwo only asked for 400 Unoka’s friend gives him another 400, but horrible droughts and rains destroy majority of harvest Harvest left profound mark on Okonkwo; considers this proof of his fortitude/inner mettle (strength) Okonkwo feels only disgust for father’s reliance on words(need to speak); he uses either action or silence

7 Chapter 4 At first, Ikemefuna is homesick and scared, but soon becomes part of the family (tells stories; an older brother to Nwoye, calls Okwonkwo “father”) Okonkwo grows fond of Ikemefuna, but does not show affection (believes it is sign of weakness) During the Week of Peace, Okonkwo beats his youngest wife, Ojiugo, after she leaves her hut to have her hair braided without first cooking dinner Because of nso-ani (transgression/breaking tradition), priest demands sacrifice of nanny goat and hen, plus a fine Okonkwo repents (says he is sorry), follows the priest’s orders. Ogbuefi Ezeudu: “The punishment for breaking the Peace of Ani has become mild in Umuofia.” After Week of Peace, villagers begin to clear land, prepare for planting farms. Nwoye and Ikemefuna help Okonkwo prepare the seed yams, but he finds fault with their work (even though he knows that they are too young to understand farming)

8 Chapter 5 Just before harvest, village holds “Feast of the New Yam” to thank the earth goddess, Ani Okonkwo considers feasts times of idleness Women scrub and decorate huts, throw away unused yams, and decoratively paint their skin and their children’s with cam wood After beating second wife, Ekwefi, he wants to go hunting. Ekwefi mutters remark about “guns that never shot,” and Okonkwo shoots at her (but misses) Okonkwo won Ekwefi’s love (she ran away from her husband to be with him) by defeating the Cat, so she especially enjoys the annual wrestling contest the day after the feast In turn, Okonkwo’s daughters bring a bowl of food to Okonkwo’s hut

9 Chapter 6 With excited spectators, the wrestling match takes place on the village ilo (a field) Maduka (son of Okonkwo’s friend Obierika) wins one match within seconds. Ekwefi speaks with Chielo, who takes the role of the priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves At the match, they speak as friends; Chielo inquires about Ezinma, whom she calls “my daughter” They conclude that Ezinma seems to have “come to stay” (she has reached the age of ten and is unlikely to die).

10 Chapter 7 Ikemefuna has been with the family for three years, having “kindled a new fire” in Nwoye (becomes more masculine, which pleases Okonkwo) Okonkwo frequently invites the two boys to listen to warrior stories in his obi (Nwoye misses his mother’s stories, but says he dislikes women’s concerns to please his father) Locusts descend upon Umuofia (happens once in a generation; come every year for 7 years before disappearing for another lifetime) Villagers happy – they collect and eat them Ogbuefi Ezeudu visits to inform Okonkwo of the Oracle’s decree. He tells Okonkwo not to take part Ikemefuna’s death, as the boy calls him “father” Okonkwo lies to Ikemefuna, telling him that he will be returning to his home village; Nwoye bursts into tears The men of Umuofia walk for hours with Ikemefuna, who thinks about seeing his mother. When attacked, Ikemefuna cries to Okonkwo for help. Okonkwo doesn’t wish to look weak, so he kills him with machete Nwoye understands Ikemefuna is dead and is very upset

11 Chapter 8 Okonkwo in depression, feels weak, cannot sleep or eat; berates (thinks poorly of) himself for acting like a “shivering old woman.” Ezinma tells him he must eat; brings him his evening meal (Okonkwo repeatedly wishes that she were a boy) He visits Obierika and congratulates Maduka for wrestling; complains his sons are not manly enough, while Ezinma has “the right spirit” He argues with Obierika about taking part in Ikemefuna’s death Okonkwo begins to feel revived; news of the death of oldest man in a neighboring village and wife’s death shortly after. Okonkwo questions the man’s reputed (reputation of) strength once he learns how the man seemed attached to his wife Obierika requests that Okonkwo stay for daughter’s fiancé to determine bride-price. Afterward, they all talk about differing customs in villages (tapping palm trees for palm-wine, white-skinned people) Foreshadowing: someone speaks of Amadi, a leper. He passes through village frequently; those who know Amadi laugh (polite term for leprosy is “the white skin”)

12 Chapter 9 Ekwefi awakes Okonkwo very early in the morning (believes Ezinma - the “center of her world” - is dying). Ekwefi is very lenient with Ezinma (Ezinma calls her by her first name; relationship approaches equality) because Ekwefi had 9 miscarriages Okonkwo knows it is just fever; collects medicine Ekwefi’s previous births had symbolic names - “Onwumbiko/Death, I implore you” and “Ozoemena/May it not happen again” Medicine man warned an ogbanje (“wicked” child who continually re-enters its mother’s womb only to die again and again) So he mutilated the dead body of Ekwefi’s third child to discourage ogbanje’s return Ezinma suffered many illnesses after birth, but recovered When Ezinma was 9, a medicine man found her iyi-uwa (small, buried pebble - ogbanje’s physical link to the spirit world) Ezinma every illness still brings terror and anxiety to Ekwefi

13 Chapter 10 Village holds a ceremonial gathering (a court)
Clan’s ancestral spirits – egwugwu - emerge (come out) from a secret house (no woman allowed inside) Egwugwu - masked men, including Okonkwo Women and children are afraid even though they understand men are playing the role of the spirits First dispute - Uzowulu says his wife’s 3 brothers beat him and took her and the children, refused to return bride-price. Mgbafo’s brothers say the husband beats their sister mercilessly (caused her to miscarry once). Brothers threaten Uzowulu - will cut his genitals off if he ever beats her again Egwugwu decide Uzowulu must beg for Mgbafo to return One village elder complains that such a trifling (unimportant, insignificant) matter should not be brought to egwugwu

14 Chapter 11 Ekwefi’s story: greedy, cunning tortoise and the birds invited to a feast in the sky (Tortoise persuades them to take new names for the feast according to custom; his name will be “All of you”) Chielo, in her role as priestess, informs Ekwefi that Agbala wishes to see Ezinma Frightened, Okonkwo and Ekwefi try to persuade Chielo to wait until morning Chielo angrily takes Ezinma on her back and forbids anyone to follow Ekwefi overcomes fear of divine punishment – follows Chielo, making rounds of the 9 villages Ekwefi determined to save Ezinma at cave if needed—even against a god Okonkwo startles her when he arrives at the cave with a machete They sit together; she recalls running away from her first husband

15 Chapter 12 At dawn, Chielo exits cave shrine with Ezinma on her back
She silently takes Ezinma to Ekwefi’s hut and puts her to bed Okonkwo had been worried about Ezinma, but did not show it – he had made four trips to and from the cave. By the last trip, he was “gravely worried” Okonkwo’s family begins to prepare for Obierika’s daughter’s uri (wedding ceremony) Villagers contribute food; Obierika buys huge goat to present to future in-laws Brief interruption – women must retrieve escaped cow; cow’s owner pays a fine Fiancé's family arrive – generously giving fifty pots of wine The feast is a success.

16 Chapter 13 Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s death is announced using ekwe (musical instrument), making Okonkwo shudder Their last visit had been the warning not to take part in Ikemefuna’s death Ezeudu had been great warrior (3 of 4 titles); his funeral is large and elaborate There are beating drums and firing of guns Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeudu’s 16-yr-old son Killing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess; Okonkwo must take his family into exile for 7 years They go to Okonkwo’s mother’s village, Mbanta According to tradition, the men burn Okonkwo’s buildings and kill his animals to cleanse the village Obierika asks why a man should suffer greatly for an accidental killing; also mourns the deaths of his twins, whom his wife was forced to throw away (wonders what crime they committed)

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