Things Fall Apart

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Things Fall Apart Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Large crowds gather around the ilo, or the village playground, as soon as the sun's heat starts to soften. The ceremony is for men, but women look on from the fringe of the crowd. The ceremony turns out to be a trial between one group, consisting of a woman, Mgbafo, and her brothers, and another group made up of Mgbafo's husband, Uzowulu, and his family.
The men are more involved in the justice system, with the women only participating on the edges of the ceremony. Yet it is important to note that the clan does have a justice system, a fact not necessarily understood by white men who treat the Umuofia as savages.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
The gong sounds and the nine egwugwu run out of the house. The nine egwugwu represent the nine villages of Umuofia, and their leader is called Evil Forest. The narrator points out that one of the egwugwu has the springy walk of Okonkwo, but if anybody notices, they keep this fact to themselves.
The justice system is combined with the religion in Umuofia, just like it is in the white man's society. Also note how the clan knows that the egwugwu are really just symbols, are men in masks that they know and have elevated to these positions. There is sophistication to this sort of understanding that most white men never seem to recognize.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The trial begins with a ritual introduction during which Evil Forest questions Uzowulu. He says that Mgbafo is his wife and that his in-laws came to his house, beat him up, and took his wife and children away one day. Odukwe, Mgbafo's brother, concedes that he took the wife and children away, but he explains that it is because Uzowulu brutally beat his wife every day, even causing a miscarriage and almost killing her once. Uzowulu's neighbors are called as witnesses, and they agree that he beat his wife. The egwugwu decide that Uzowulu should bring an offering of palm-wine to his in-laws and beg for his wife to return, and that the in-laws should let Mgbafo go if Uzowulu brings the wine, ending this case. As the chapter closes, another trial over land begins.
Note how Mgbafo is not allowed to speak for herself at the trial. It is her brother who defends her, showing again that men dominate the government. The trial takes a complicated situation and works out a solution among those involved that keeps the peace, cements social bonds, and does so without imprisonment or violent punishment. In some ways, this justice system could be seen as being just as sophisticated and perhaps more merciful than that of the white man.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon