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Free Study Guide Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe BookNotes

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THINGS FALL APART TEACHING GUIDE

 

CHAPTER 11

Summary

One night, Ezinma and her mother are sitting in their hut having their supper. Ekwefi is telling a story about a tortoise and birds which explains why the tortoise’ shell is uneven. When she finishes, Ezinma begins her story. Half way through, she has to break off because they could hear Chielo, the priestess of Agbala prophesying, and calling to Okonkwo. Chielo then enters the hut and insists on talking Ezinma with her since Agbala wanted to see her. Carrying Ezinma on her shoulders, she takes off into the hills. Ekwefi follows her doggedly, though the path is very dangerous and risky. Finally they reach the caves and Chielo enters with Ezinma. Ekwefi is frightened of what might be happening inside. Behind her, she hears a footstep, and finds Okonkwo, who has followed behind her. Both of them wait together outside the cave for Chielo to reappear, and Ekwefi is grateful for his presence.


Notes

The importance of oral tradition is shown in this chapter with Ekwefi’s tale of why the turtle has a broken shell. Ezinma herself is a budding storyteller although she is young. Stories are told to reinforce cultural customs and traditions and to explain unknown phenomena.

Here both Ekwefi and Okonkwo defy tradition and customs in order to protect Ezinma from harm. Even though she is taken by Chielo, who shares a special bond with this young gir, Ezinma’s life is in danger in this scene as it is impossible to know why the Oracle has summoned her. Ekwefi’s llove for her only child is so great that she is prepared to invoke the wrath of the gods, in order to ensure her child’s safety even when Chielo says to her: ‘Woman, go home before Agbala does you harm’, she cannot. Okonkwo shows himself to be a responsible and caring parent as he follows his family into the forest although this image jars with the other incident that occurred in the forest: the killing of Ikemefuna.

The sight of Okonkwo is thrilling to Ekwefi as she realizes how much her daughter means to him and also how much he means to Ekwefi even after all these years. Once again, the reader realizes that despite his hard shell, Okonkwo has qualities that are admirable. Okonkwo’s love for his daughter is portrayed in him having followed Chielo although he would never openly admit it. The readers see in this chapter the dread and awe the people possess have for the unknown powers of Agbala, the Oracle of the Caves and the Hills.



CHAPTER 12


Summary

Okonkwo and Ekwefi wait for Ezinma’s exit from the cave but it is not until the early morning hours that Chielo appears with Ezinma. She doe not acknowledge either of them, but simply walks straight to Ezinma’s hut and puts her to bed. The parents follow behind.

That day there is a festive air in the neighborhood as Obierika is celebrating his daughter’s uri, a part of the betrothal ceremony, where the bridegroom brings the palm-wine for the bride’s family, her kin, and extended family. Every family carries some food to the wedding house and the bride’s mother is responsble for preparing the food for everyone. Tripods are exacted for the fire, and food is being prepared by the women.

Ekwefi is tired from the night before and waits until Ezinma wakes up and eats breakfast. Okonkwo’s other wives leave to help prepare the food.

Oberieka is preparing two goats for the soup and admiring another that has been brought in as a gift. As the women prepare the meal, they hear that a cow has gotten loose somewhere. They leave a few women with the food and go to find and return it back to its owner. All the women must do this and there is a head check to see if everyone is present. Aftewards, the owner is fined heavily

By afternoon, two pots of palm-wine arrive from the in-law’s house. Later, the in-laws arrive each carrying a pot of wine. In all, fifty pots are received which is a respectable number. Kola nuts are offered and the betrothal is finalized. A great feast is laid out and everyone partakes in it happily. In the night, the young men start singing, the bride dances and everyone is happy.


Notes

Another traditional ceremony is described in this chapter which further contributes to the reader’s understanding of tribal customs and beliefs. This is the ceremony where the bridegroom brings palm-wine for all the guests and kin of the bride. The entire village celebrates with a feeling of togetherness and unity. The women prepare food and from all over the village women bring coco-yams, cake of salt and smoked fish, plantains and palm-oil and present it to Obierika’s wife. The slaughtering of the goat is also done in a way that is traditional. The goat’s throat is first cut, the blood is collected in a bowl, then held over an open fire to burn off the hair. The smell of burning hair blends with the smell of cooking. The head is then washed, cut and handed over to the women to be cooked.

The rescue of the cow by all the women of the village is another custom that is observed quite strictly. The price for having a loose animal is steep and meant to maintain a sense of order in the village.

The number of pots of palm-wine brought by the bridegroom is of great significance since it denotes the respect they have for the bride’s family. Okonkwo therefore dares them to bring fewer than thirty pots-“I shall tell them my mind if they do” he warns. Fortunately, fifty pots are brought, which counts as enough respect for the bride’s people.

As seen in the song sung at the end, sexual activity is seen as a natural part of the courting ritual. Here women are seen as enjoying themselves as much as men do.


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