Things Fall Apart | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart | Part 1, Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

Chielo returns Ezinma to Okonkwo's compound. The narrator reveals that Okonkwo had "not slept at all [the night before]. ... He felt very anxious." He made multiple trips to the cave before he found Ekwefi there waiting.

The villagers are in a festive mood as they prepare for Obierika's daughter's uri (part of the betrothal ceremony). Obierika has purchased a large goat in a far-off marketplace and plans to present it to his in-laws. Everyone prepares food for the ceremony. While the women are cooking, a cow gets loose, and they run to retrieve it.

Obierika's in-laws arrive bearing 50 pots of wine, a large number. As the feast progresses there are toasts, singing, and dancing. The bride appears and dances while the crowd cheers. As the bride leaves with her suitor's family, they pay visits to prominent people, who present them with gifts.

Analysis

Displaying emotions publically does not fit with Okonkwo's perceptions of manliness. In this chapter, however, his grave concern for Ezinma is an indicator that he cares a great deal about his children.

Cultural unity within the clan is depicted in the preparations for the uri, in which the community functions as one big family. Every part of the ceremony is cooperative: the preparation of the feast itself, the retrieval of the cow, the generous contributions of palm wine, the gift of the big goat, and the recognition that the joining of two families contributes to the joining of two villages.

The Umuike marketplace where the goat is purchased is large and crowded. Umuike people want their market "to grow and swallow up the markets of their neighbors." This thirst for success and power has created a market that is unsavory and filled with thieves. "They can steal your cloth from off your waist in that market," observes one of Obierika's guests. Obierika and others believe the Umuike people use medicine (magic) to enable their thievery. The Umiuke market can be seen as a symbol for the negative elements of commercialism. It presents a marked contrast to the celebration of family and community at the equally crowded uri.

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