Things fall Apart: Chapter 13,14,15

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Summary of Chapter Thirteen

The drums beat and waken everyone in Umoufia. They are a communication system. They say first, someone has died, and the then, finally, the village is named, then the person. The man is Ezeudu, the elder who had warned Okonkwo not to kill Ikemefuna.


Ezeudu is a great man, who won three of the four clan titles, so the whole clan is at the funeral. Guns and cannon are fired, and drums beat. It is a warrior’s funeral, and the egwugwu are present in their masks. One egwugwu is so fierce he is chasing people with a machete and has to be restrained. At sunset a final gun and canon salute before burial ends in disaster. The dead man’s sixteen-year-old son was accidentally killed by Okonkwo’s gun.


Okonkwo has committed a sin against the earth goddess and has to flee from the land. It was a female sin because accidental, so he can return after seven years. He collects his belongings, weeping wives, and children and goes to his mother’s home in Mbanta, to his uncle’s house. Obierika and other friends take and store Okonkwo’s yams and then burn his houses and destroy his belongings and animals, for Okonkwo has polluted the land.


Commentary on Chapter Thirteen

The funeral unleashes great power and emotion. The masked ancestral spirits themselves seem mad, and it is implied that the passion was too much for Okonkwo who accidentally fires his gun and kills the boy of the dead man. We have seen that Okonkwo has unrestrained anger and emotion, but he is also a bad shot. He missed hitting Ekwefi when firing at her in anger, and here, he did not intend the death at all. His luck has changed, and it was the dead warrior, Ezeudu, who had warned him about Ikemefuna. Now, he really has offended the earth by killing a clansman, and has to go into exile to pay the penalty. Obierika is a thoughtful man who questions this judgment, as when he had to kill his newborn twins, an abomination to the earth. Yet, a formal judgment is a way to pay off the guilt and put a limit to it. This judgment is very harsh on a man like Okonkwo who is still trying to rise, and may have had ambitions to take the highest title. This event ends Part One of the novel.


Summary of Chapter Fourteen

Part Two is the exile and opens with Okonkwo in exile at his maternal uncle Uchendu’s compound. Ochendu arranges rites and sacrifices for the female ochu, or sin. He gives Okonkwo ground for a house and fields, and his sons give Okonkwo three hundred seed yams each. Okonkwo and his family work hard, but it is starting over, and he fights despair, for he had planned to be one of the lords of the clan, and now he feels his chi is not cut out for great things. Yet his mother’s people are kind to him.


Uchendu takes the opportunity of his son’s marriage to make a public speech about Okonkwo.  He says Okonkwo is an exile bowed with grief, but he asks him a question: why do we say Nneka, or Mother is Supreme if a man is the head of the house? Okonkwo doesn’t know. Uchendu says, A child belongs to the father, but when the father beats it, it runs to mother. Mother is there to protect you. That is why you have come to the motherland in trouble. You must not die in exile. Uchendu says he has lost six wives and twenty-two children but he does not despair.


Commentary on Chapter Fourteen

Uchendu aptly identifies Okonkwo’s weakness—his over attachment to the male virtues. Thus, his punishment seems just: he gets one more opportunity to learn the female side of life. Uchendu tries to instill in him the value of mother and mother earth. He says that when a woman dies, there is a song that says,


“For whom it is well, for whom it is well?

There is no one for whom it is well.” (Ch. 14, p.135)


Okonkwo never admits his love for feminine things or his wives and daughters. His own mother died when he was quite young.


Summary of Chapter Fifteen

In Okonkwo’s second year of exile, his friend Obierika comes to visit him at his uncle’s house with some friends. Uchendu knew Obierika’s father, Iweka. As the men sit around and talk, Obierika tells them the news that one of the villages, Abame, is no more.


Three months earlier, fugitives had come from Abame to Umuofia with the sad story of how their village was wiped out. A white man had come there riding an iron horse. The elders consulted the Oracle who said the strange man would break their clan, and others were on the way, like locusts. They killed the white man and tied the iron horse to their sacred tree to keep it from running away to call the man’s friends.


For a long time nothing happened. Then three more white men came, saw the iron horse, and went away, bringing back more, who shot almost everyone at the marketplace. Evil had come on their land.


After exchanging all the news, Obierika produces two bags of money he got from selling Okonkwo’s yams. He has also given out some for sharecroppers, so Okonkwo will have money when he returns.


Commentary on Chapter Fifteen

Okonkwo’s tragic accident had happened the year earlier, and now the tragic news concerns the whole land, with white settlers moving in. The Igbo hardly know how to react. Their Oracle is correct, but their solution of killing the white man only sets off the inevitable conflict between the ancient civilization and modern colonizers.


The men in Uchendu’s hut analyze the problem according to their magic and tradition. Uchendu insists on knowing what the white man said when they killed him, and the answer was nothing. That was the mistake, said Uchendu. You can never kill a person who says nothing, and he tells the story of Mother Kite and the duckling.


This telling of tales is the way the Igbo comprehend events. It seems humorous to a white point of view, like tying up the iron horse or bicycle to the tree, but it represents a clash of worldviews. The Igbo have guns, but they are used to doing things in a ceremonial fashion. No war has been declared. The villagers killed the white man on the Oracle’s pronunciation. At most, they expected to see his friends or relatives. They are not prepared for genocide in the market place when no one is armed.


Okonkwo’s reaction is that they should have armed themselves at all times. This is his typical warrior pose, that everything can be taken care of with violence.


Obeierika reflects that they had heard of white men taking slaves across the sea, but they did not believe the stories. This shows, along with the earlier joke about whites as lepers, that the Igbo have no comprehension about whites or outside world history. It is also clear when they return quickly to their own local affairs that they do not comprehend the white threat to themselves.

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