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Free Study Guide Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe BookNotes

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THINGS FALL APART PLOT SUMMARY


CHAPTER 8


Summary

Okonkwo is unable to forget Ikemefuna and drowns himself in palm-wine to mitigate his sorrow. When his daughter Ezinma brings him food, he finds himself wishing that she were a boy. He berates himself for being so weak and lamenting Ikemefuna’s death. Finally, after three days he rouses himself from his sorrow and goes to meet his friend Obierika. Obierika’s son Maduka had won in the wrestling combat and is a promising lad and worthy of his father’s pride. Obierika had refused to accompany the rest of the village in killing Ikemefuna. On being asked why, he replies that he “had something better to do,” and that this deed would not please the Earth because of the men’s actions. But Okonkwo disagrees with him. At that point, Ofoedu enters with the news that an elder, Ogbuefi Ndulue of Ira village had died but the drums had not been beaten because his trusted wife Ozoemena, hearing of her husband’s death, had died too. According to custom, Ndulue’s funeral was to be held off until his wife’s burial. The two men disapprove of the close relationship that this man had with his wife and wonder how such a warrior in battle could be so weak in his marriage. They also discuss the loss of prestige that goes with one of the titles for tapping wine out of palm trees.

Feeling better after their talk, Okonkwo goes home, and then returns in time to help Obierika bargain for the marriage-price of his daughter. The daughter, Akueke has been suitably dressed for the occasion. The dowry is bargained upon and settled at twenty bags of cowries. Food is then brought in and the men make small talk. The first mention of the white man is made, but it is more in jest as the word for leper means “white skin.”



Notes

The reader can see that underneath Okonkwo’s rough exterior lies a sensitive person, who hurts at the death of Ikemefuna, who was like a son to him. Yet at the same time that he is seen as mourning Ikemefuna, he is also seen berating himself for expressing his emotions. Nwoye, his son, refuses to come near him and is frightened and distrustful of this man who would kill a young man he was fond of. Okonkwo’s behavior is offputting to him so he leaves to find a sympathetic ear. Only his friend Obierika also does not approve of what he has done and tells him so. Obierika sees that some manly actions or ways of the tribe are to be rejected for a higher, more humanitarian culture. Although his visit to his friend makes him feel better, Okonkwo’s rigid adherence to society’s rules are in marked contrast to Oberieka’s more mutable outlook on how society must change if a law appears unjust or outdated. This conversation shows Okonkwo’s increasing distance from his friends and family.

The ceremony of the young man coming to see the young womanl is described in detail and reveals the economics of marriage as well as the elaborate courting rituals that occur in this society. Much is made of the woman’s beauty which is accentuated by her elaborate body designs and jewelry. Her coiffure is elaborate as well as her jewelry and skin which is rubbed with wood and designed in black patterns all over all meant to sell her to the young man and increase her price.

The decision over the number of cowries to be given is made in a very diplomatic and judicious manner. Each party respecting the other yet attempting to get the best bargain. The exchanging of sticks as a complex kind of negotiating refutes common stereotypes that African cultures are primitive and uncivilized.

A somewhat trivial conversation about white men ends the chapter and reveals the Igbo attitudes towards them, their lack of contact with them as well as their negative perception of them as seen in equating them with lepers.


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