Things Fall Apart

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CHAPTER 10

A very dramatic public ceremony is described in detail that involves meting out justice. On the village commons ppl gather and the rest of the village is behind them. Nine stools are placed for the egwugwu to sit. Egwugwu represent the spirits of their ancestors and are respected members of the community who can dispense justice in trials. Women stood on the edges of the circle. A gong is loudly blasted and the guttural voice of the egwugwu is heard. When he makes his appearance, it is very dramatic as he wears a fearful looking mask and pretends to scare the women. With him , nine other masked men emerge. Okonkwo's wives notice that one of the egwugwu walks with a springy step such as Okonkwo does. They also notice he is absent from where the elders sit.

The leader of the egwugwu speaks some words. The hearing then begins. It involves a man named Uzowulu whose wife was taken away by him by her family. He wishes that either she return or they pay him his bride-price. The women's brother argues that she has been rescued because she is beaten every day and that she will return on the promise that he never hit her again. After the discussion the leader returns with a verdict. He tells Uzowulu to bring wine to his wife's family and beg his wife to return to him. He also expresses disgust at Uzowulu's cowardice in beating women and askes him to accept his brother-in-law's offer.

The egwugwu and their system of justice are similar to Western society's notion of a fair public trial. The men who conduct the hearings are the senior members of the society, and have political as well as economic power, but they mask themselves to hide their identity, so that a fair judgment can be given. Here each party is given a chance to state their case and then the egwugwu leave to debate a verdict as well as a punishment or remuneration.

The dismissive attitude one of the elders shows for a trial of this kind reveals the lack of power and respect that women had in this society. Not only does the women's brother speak for her, but she has no say in the verdict handed to her husband. Whether or not she wants to return is overlooked by the larger economic reason for her return. Her husband's hand is slapped for being so violent but other than that he is not punished for his crime, simply fined

CHAPTER 11

One night, Ezinma and her mother are sitting in their hut having their supper. Ekwefi is telling a story about a tortoise and birds and says why tortoises' shells are un even. 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 girl, 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...
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