Essay Ikemefuna’s Death in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

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Ikemefuna’s Death in Things Fall Apart

Okonkwo’s participation in the slaying of his adopted son, Ikemefuna is a pivotal moment in Things Fall Apart. It is a moment of horror that cannot please Ani, the great earth goddess, the center of community, the ultimate judge of morality for the clan. It is a moment that changes the course of events, a moment eerily paralleled in the death of Ezeudu’s son. It is a moment that ultimately causes Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye’s to abandon his ancestors and become a Christian. It is a moment when the center of community life, the need to honor blood ties and the need to respect the earth goddess, can no longer hold. It is a moment when things fall apart.

"That boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand
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Okonkwo justifies this killing of his foster son as a show of his own strength and manliness (66). He does not understand that this is no honor in killing a child who rushes to him for protection. He has in fact killed his own blood.

Obierika, Okonkwo’s best friend is wiser, refusing to go on the sacrificial march. He warns Okonkwo that the slaying of Ikemefuna does not please the Earth, and prophesizes, "It is the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families" (67). Shortly after Ikemefuna’s death, Okonkwo‘s rusted gun explodes at Ezeudu’s funeral, piercing the heart of the dead man’s son, killing the boy instantly. For killing a clansman, Okonkwo and his entire family are banished and Okonkwo loses his position in his village. It is during this time that Christianity establishes itself in Okonkwo’s village. Returning after seven years, he finds that everything he once knew has changed, as the white man’s law now takes precedence over village customs. The men of his village have become like women and everything is falling apart (183).

The impact of Ikemefuna’s death on Nwoye is devastating. Something gives way inside of him when he thinks of his father and the killing of Ikemefuna. The fear of his father and the horror over the sacrifice of Ikemefuna separates Nwoye from tribal customs and the sense of community. His family’s banishment isolates him further. Hearing the Christian hymns, which cater to
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