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THINGS FALL APART BOOK NOTES
The Feast of the New Yam is now approaching.
It takes place just before the harvest and is an occasion of thanksgiving to the
earth goddess, Ani. The night before the feast, the old yams are disposed of and
on the new year, all the cooking pots are thoroughly washed before being used
for the new crop. Yam foo-foo and vegetables soup is prepared. Guests are invited
to partake of the food. The walls of the house are decorated with designs and
the women and children anoint and decorate themselves. Okonkwo is not very enthusiastic
about the feast. He would rather work in his fields. His suppressed resentment
regarding the feast explodes when he thinks that somebody has cut one of his banana
trees. When he discovers that the culprit is his second wife, Ekwefi, he beats
her and then shoots at her with his gun but fortunately, he misses. In spite of
Okonkwo’s outburst, the festival is celebrated with great joy by his family.
On the second day, there is a wrestling contest in which Okonkwo participates.
Okonkwo’s wives prepare the evening meal and the food is served by each of their
daughters. One of his daughters, Ezinma, discusses the forthcoming wrestling contest.
Okonkwo is particularly fond of this daughter, but as usual does not show his
love for her.
Since yam is the staple diet,
the importance given to it is understandable, and much of the customs of the village
are related to the production of this vegetable. Although Okonkwo’s life is dedicated
to the production of yams, he sees them only in terms of what financial and political
power he can gain. When it comes to the festival, he dismisses it as a waste of
time. He does not see the social benefits that yams bring to the community such
as celebration of life and community.
This chapter, like the one before
it, builds on the increasingly violent nature of Okonkwo and his repressed emotions
that result in hurting those he loves. Beating up his wife for marring a banana
tree is an extreme action that does not go unnoticed by others in the village
although for the most part the beating is condoned and because everything returns
back to normal by the next day, domestic violence appears to be a normal occurrence.
Fortunately, it is known that Okonkwo, though a great wrestler, is a not a hunter,
and hence his aim is terrible. The mention of guns is a first and foreshadows
the arrival of Westerners who came after the gun was introduced to Igbo traders.
The reader here is made aware of Okonkwo’s feelings of love and affection
when the author mentions Okonkwo’s first meeting with Ekwefi and his love for
his daughter Ezinma. This reveals that beneath his cold and stern exterior he
is a loving human being. He however hides these emotions as he considers them
to be signs of weakness and failure.
A particular superstition that is
noted in this scene is when Okonkwo’s first wife calls out to Ekwefi, who answers
with a question “Is that me?” Ritual had it that no one replied straightaway to
his or her name since it could be an evil spirit calling.
The wrestling contests
are to be held on the second day of the festival. Everyone from the village gathers
to watch these contests, as they are great sources of pride for the villagers.
It begins with boys of fifteen or sixteen who provide some entertainment before
the more serious matches. One of the winners is the son of Obierika, a friend
of Okonkwo. Ekwefi, Okonkwo’s second wife, loves the wrestling matches and remembers
how she fell in love with Okonkwo when he beat the great wrestler, Cat. Although
she was married at the time, she left her husband once she found out Okonkwo had
enough money to marry her.
Ekwefi meets Chielo, the priestess of Agbala,
the oracle, who asks about her daughter’s health. The last match is between Okafo
and Ikezue, the leaders of the teams. The earlier year, there had been a draw
as they had the same style of fighting but this time, a fierce match ensues and
Okafo wins the match. The people sing his praises, carrying him on their shoulders.
Only the wrestling match is dealt with in
this chapter and its focus emphasizes the importance of physical sports and agility
in Igbo culture. The excitement running through the entire village is tangible.
Men, women, and children show up for this great event that brings the community
Here the reader catches a glimpse of Okonkwo’s appeal to women
as Ekwefi recounts her first sight of him at a wrestling match many years ago.
Despite him having just beat her up, she has warm and passionate memories of their
The conversation between Ekwefi and Chielo about Ekwefi’s daughter,
Ezinma is somewhat ambiguous although it will be cleared up later with the revelation
of Ezinma’s illness. This exchange also shows how little women outside the family
unit see each other except at these special feasts and the marketplace.
The final contest between the two leaders seems to invoke a wild frenzy among
the spectators, and when Okafo manages to bring Ikezue down, the crowd bursts
into a thunderous roar. For the villagers, the wrestling match is the event of
the entire year.
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