Things Fall Apart: Chapters 11-15

The plot of the story advances greatly in these chapters and significant events occur in each story line.: Ezinma is healed, Obierika’s daughters is married, Ezeudu and his son die, and Okonkwo is exiled.

Questions from Books@Random:

  1. The villagers believe–or pretend to believe–that the “Supreme Court” of the nine egwugwu are ancestral spirits. In fact, they are men of the village in disguise. What does this say about the nature of justice in general, and in this village in particular?
  2. Of one of the goddesses, it is said: “It was not the same Chielo who sat with her in the market…Chielo was not a woman that night” (p. 106). What do you make of this culture where people can be both themselves and also assume other personas? Can you think of any parallels in your own world?
  3. Nature plays an integral role in the mythic and real life of the Ibo villagers, much more so than in our own society. Discuss ways in which their perception of animals–such as the cat, the locust, the python–differ from your own, and how these different beliefs shape our behavior.
  4. Of Ezinma, Okonkwo thinks: “She should have been a boy” (p. 64). Why is it necessary to the story that Okonkwo’s most favored child be a girl?

My questions:

  1. What do you think of the marriage ceremony and the dowry described in chapter 12. What do the traditions tell us about the Ibo society? How do those traditions compare or contrast to traditional American marriage ceremonies?
  2. Most of the women are referred to by their relationship to men, for example, Nwoye’s mother and Obierika’s wife. Why do you think that is true? Ezinma is the only woman consistently called by her name and not her relationship to a man. Why do you think that is so? And do you think it is important to the story?
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3 thoughts on “Things Fall Apart: Chapters 11-15

  1. 1. The justice in the village is handed down by 9 titled men, very similar to the justice in our society. The difference here is that the men in the village assume the persona of an ancestor, so it is the ancestor who has the real authority, while in our society we freely bestow that authority onto people who have (hopefully) proved wise and educated enough to use it properly.

    2. People in our society assume various personas all the time. Actors and actresses are paid to do it, introverted people are forced to do it, and others do so for safety’s sake or for enjoyment. I think everyone at one time or another wears a mask of sorts, and it can take a long time for a person to feel comfortable enough in his/her own skin to allow the real self to shine through.

    3. Animals don’t symbolize or portend anything to us. A pigeon flew into my store today – I saw that pigeon as a pest, a nuisance. I did not think, “Oh, that was a pigeon. Something bad will happen to me on the way home.” We don’t assign as much spiritual/mythical value to animals, although we do keep some as pets (practical family members in some cases), which didn’t seem to happen in the Ibo village.

    4. Okonkwo wants Enzima to be a boy because she thinks like him. If she was a boy, though, she would be the favored son and could inherit all of Okonkwo’s possessions and power once he dies. As it is, she is a girl, so she is a practical non-entity outside of her own family.

    1. I’ve always had problems with marriage/dowry stories where a woman’s value is calculated based on goats or chickens or some other such item. I’d like to think I’m worth more than three goats, two chickens, and a bag of corn. American marriage ceremonies vary so widely now, it’s funny to remember that there is a “traditional” way of doing a marriage in this country.

    2. Women are non-entities in this society, thus their importance stems only from their relationship to a man. Enzima gets her name because she is Okonkwo’s favorite and thinks like he does, even though he is sad she isn’t a boy. The fact that Enzima is called by her name places more importance on her existence.

  2. I have enjoyed reading your answers, Jenni, and hope you will continue though the rest of us have not been as involved as we planned to be.
    It is true that we expect our judges to take on the persona of neutrality…

  3. 1. The people seem to suspend disbelief about the nature of the judges. They had to have known they were really men in the village yet they wanted to believe they were ancesters. We, likewise, want our judges and those in authority over us to be above us–godlike, in a sense– morally and intellectually.

    2. People in today’s society assume different personas all the time. As Jenni said, sometimes we pay peope to adopt different personas, but I think we all put on an act at one time or another. It isn’t always wrong to do that–like when a teacher acts confident when she’s scared to death–but if a person consistently acts opposite from his or her true character, they can be hypocritical.

    4-2b. Enzima’s value isn’t seen in who she really is. Her father would appreciate her more if she were a boy. It always makes me sad to read and hear of women being treated like property.

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