Things Fall Apart

How do the men of Umofia decide what to do about the murder of a woman from their clan? What role do the women of Umofia have in the decision?


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ten thousand men of Umuofia gather in the marketplace. Ogbuefi Ezuogo, a powerful orator, gives the traditional opening: he faces four different directions, raising a clenched fist, and cries "Umuofia kwenu," to which the men all cry "Yaa!" He greets them this way a fifth time, and then he tells them that men from the neighboring village of Mbaino have killed a girl from Umuofia. The men discuss the situation, and decide to follow the normal course of action: the will issue an ultimatum, demanding a boy and a virgin as compensation. The neighboring villages fear Umuofia, because its warriors and medicine-men are powerful. It's most powerful war medicine (magic) is agadi-nwayi, a magic enforced by the spirit of an old woman with one leg. The narrator tells us that in fairness to Umuofia, it should be said that the village never went to war without first trying a peaceful settlement, and even then it only went if the war was approved by the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. And the Oracle often forbade war.

Okonkwo is chosen as emissary. He goes and is treated with respect, and he returns with the young boy and the virgin girl. The girl goes to the man whose wife was murdered. As for the boy, the village is in no hurry to decide his fate. His name is Ikemefuna. He goes to live with Okonkwo and his family.