Things Fall Apart | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart | Part 1, Chapter 13 | Summary



Umuofia awakes to the news that Ezeudu, the clansman who told Okonkwo not to participate in Ikemefuna's execution, has died. "A cold shiver [runs] down Okonkwo's back" as he recalls the warning.

Ezeudu was the oldest man in his village and had achieved the rare accomplishment of taking three titles. Drums are beaten, and guns and cannon are fired. Before his final rite, "the tumult increased tenfold." Words are spoken in tribute. The tumult continues and reaches "fever-heat."

Okonkow joins other funeral guests who shoot their guns in a salute to Ezeudu. However, his gun explodes, and the shrapnel kills Ezeudu's 16-year-old son. Killing a clan member is an offense against the earth goddess. Okonkwo must flee, but since the killing was accidental, he will be allowed to return to the clan after seven years. Gathering their most valuable belongings, he and his family go to his mother's village, Mbanta.

Soon Ezeudu's neighbors storm Okonkwo's compound and destroy it, symbolically cleansing the land that Okonkwo has soiled with their clansman's blood. One of the men is Obierika, who questions the traditional cleansing ritual because the killing was an accident.


Chapter 13 concludes the first part of the novel, ending with an event that is unthinkable to Okonkwo—his exile from the village.

Okonkwo cannot escape the killing of Ikemefuna. The death of Ezeudu, who warned Okonkwo against harming Ikemefuna, is a reminder, and it foreshadows yet another killing that Okonkwo commits. This killing—at Ezeudu's funeral—is unintentional. While Okonkwo continues to feel guilt for the intentional murder, an exercise of free will, he suffers no outward repercussions.

However, the unintentional crime causes a great upheaval in his life. Once again, his inexperience with guns leads to conflict. This crime of killing Ezeudu's son is considered "female" because it was inadvertent, an act of fate. Yet Okonkwo has offended the earth goddess and must pay for the offense.

The narrator points out that nothing like this crime has ever happened in the village. The tribe uses violence as a form of expression. At the burial of Ezeudu, clansmen brandish machetes and shoot guns and cannons; after the man's son is killed, the men destroy Okonkwo's compound. It is controlled violence and done for a ceremonial purpose.

Obierika is characterized as thoughtful. He questions Okonkwo's punishment and why his own twin infants had to be abandoned. (In Igbo culture, multiple births are "an abomination." Twins are abandoned to die of natural causes in the Evil Forest.) Obierika follows the clan's customs but disagrees with some of its ways.

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