Questions from Books@Random:
1. The Ibo religious structure consists of chi–the personal god–and many other gods and goddesses. What advantages and disadvantages does such a religion provide when compared with your own?
2. The text includes many original African terms and there is a glossary provided. Do you find that this lends atmospheric authenticity, thus bringing you closer to the work? Do you find it helpful?
3. There is an issue here of fate versus personal control over destiny. For example, Okonkwo’s father is sometimes held responsible for his own actions, while at other times he is referred to as ill-fated and a victim of evil-fortune. Which do you think Okonkwo believes is true? What do you think Achebe believes is true? What do you believe?
My questions and comments:
4. What disease do you think Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, had? He’s described as having a swollen stomach and limbs, so at first I thought he was dying of starvation, but I’m not sure why the man who staggered back to his home was tied to a tree or why this sickness was “an abomination to the earth” (18).
5. I was glad for the explanation of Iboan conversations as it explains much about the structure and dialogue of other African novels I’ve read.
“Having spoken plainly so far, Okoye said the next half a dozen sentences in proverbs. Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten. Okoye was a great talker and he spoke for a long time, skirting around the subject and then hitting it finally” (7).
6. What do you think of the proverbs referred to in the story? Some of them I found to be quite humorous and enlightening, but others were confusing because I’m not familiar with the culture.
7. What do you think of the story so far? Do you have any other observations to add?
My comments are going to be a bit random: I really like the story so far and already feel very interested in the characters and can sense that something terrible is going to happen. Some of the customs I find revolting–drinking wine out of a human skull, for example–but the details help me understand the violence of the tribe, in general, and Okonkwo, in particular. I am always intrigued with stories about a husband’s many wives; I feel so badly for them, but I think the rules regarding rights and responsibilities are interesting. My heart also goes out to the poor virgin who was given to the man whose wife was murdered and who Ikemefuna “never saw . . . again” (15).