things fall apart

What are the complex traditions of the Igbo clans?


In Things Fall Apart, there are many complex traditions in the Igbo clans. Some traditions are hard to understand. One tradition involves the murdering of innocent twins at birth. The birth of twins is considered an evil omen so the twins are placed in earthen pots and left to die in the evil forest. This is a complex tradition that Okonkwo's son Nwoye has trouble understanding.

Another tradition that is complex is the involvement of the Oracles or the Earth Goddess in the affairs of the tribal clans. The earth is worshipped and the Earth Goddess Ani has the authority to banish Okonkwo when his gun accidentally explodes and kills the son of an elder during that elder's funeral. Okonkwo is exiled for seven years. 

Other complex traditions are founded in the power of the priestess and medicine man. Okonkwo follows a traditional ceremony to assure his daughter will survive in spite of her destiny to die and be repeatedly reborn.

He loves his daughter Ezinma, who is an ogbanje, or a changeling child who seems to die continually only to return to her mother’s womb to be reborn and die again. In an attempt to break the power of the ogbanje, Okonkwo follows his wife Ekwefi, the priestess Chielo, and his daughter Ezinma on a journey to the oracle Agbala. Okonkwo also assists a medicine man locate and destroy his daughter’s iyi uwa, or the sacred stone that links the child with the spirit world.  

When a daughter of Umuofia is murdered by a neighboring tribe, Ikemefuna is sacrificed for the crime. Ultimately, Okonkwo participates in the killing of Ikemefuna even though it is a sin to kill a kinsman. Ikemefuna has become his adopted son and calls Okonkwo father. The Mbaino tribe had given the young boy to Umuofia to keep the Umuofia clan from declaring war on the tribe of Mbaino. Ikemefuna is sacrificed and killed after living with Okonkwo for three years. This is another complex custom to understand.  


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