Things Fall Apart

how does achebe's depiction of an Ibo village create an impression of a complex, self-sufficient culture seemingly able to deal in traditional ways with any challenge that nature and human experience might throw at it?

question relates to part one only

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Igbo Belief System

The Igbos are essentially a profoundly religious people that embrace polytheism. They believe in three levels of being, namely, the supreme god or Chukwu; lesser gods or Umuagbara; and beneath them the spirits of dead people otherwise known as Ndi Ichie. In this regard, the idea of reincarnation is strongly upheld hence the argument that death is transient with some of the dead coming back to the world through the newly-born. This explains the phenomenon of obanje, a practice whereby a dead baby returns into its mother’s womb multiple times if a ritual ceremony is not done to stop it. These ritualistic activities are handled by village priests and priestesses who, as diviners, ensure the spiritual health of the community.

As a cohesive society, the Igbos rigorously abide by precise tenets, for example, during the week of peace, the village is expected to resonate with joy and not hate. Any violator of this sanctity is punished regardless of his/her status. In addition, there are contending forces and spirits that nurture and regulate the society, for instance, the belief in osu or slave heritage, and the casting away of evil people into the Evil Forest. Traditional Igbo society disposed of fractious individuals, oracles or gods who threatened its well-being, thereby creating new avenues for success and the maintenance of individual and societal harmony.3

In fact, in order to enhance the community’s or one’s chances of success, supernatural forces are either invoked or appeased by using equally mysterious forces in the forms of charms or amulets called Ogwu which sometimes can be deified and propitiated as a god or goddess. Oracles can also be consulted to unravel a mystery or the future as seen in the oracle of the “Hills and Caves.”4 It is, therefore, incumbent on the subjects to strive for righteous lives following the dictates of societal ethics because failure to do so will result in excruciating consequences.

The above practices greatly impact on the characters and render them highly susceptible to the supernatural. It is against such a landscape of multifarious gods and belief systems that we can fully appreciate the behaviour and actions of Achebean characters. Only then can we understand their vulnerability to external forces.