Things Fall Apart

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Things Fall Apart Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One moonless night, Ezinma and Ekwefi sit in their hut telling stories. Ekwefi tells the story of a clever tortoise who tricks the birds into helping him get a feast in the sky. He tricks them by convincing them to take on different names, while he takes on the name “All of you.” When he asks the people of the sky for whom they have prepared the feast, they say they've prepared it for “all of you,” and as a result, the tortoise eats his fill before any of the birds can. In their anger, the birds tell the tortoise's wife to put out all the hard things in the house to break the tortoise's fall, which ends up shattering his shell, resulting in its broken appearance.
Ekwefi and Ezinma share the tradition of storytelling in their hut at night. Ekwefi's story emphasizes the importance of names, since the tortoise manages to trick everyone by changing their names. This story also explains the world around them: why the tortoise shell looks the way it does. This telling of stories between mother and child is universal, no different than what goes on in white households across the world.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Ezinma complains that there is no song in the story, and she begins her turn to tell. Suddenly, a high-pitched voice breaks off her storytelling, and Chielo arrives. She says that the god Agbala wants to see Ezinma in his house in the hills and the caves. Ekwefi says that she will go too, but Chielo curses her and commands her not to go. Chielo tells Ezinma, who is very afraid, to climb on her back. Together, they depart. Ekwefi makes up her mind to follow, and Okonkwo doesn't stop her.
It seems that once religion commands that something is done, it becomes fated. In this way, once the Oracle demands to see Ezinma, she can't refuse, and her parents can't refuse to let her go. Yet also notice that, unlike Okonkwo, who gave in to the rule of the clan leaders and killed Ikemefuna, Ekwefi defies Chielo's orders and follows after. She has a mind to protect her daughter.
Themes
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The night is very dark, and Ekwefi has to run to keep up with Chielo. She becomes more and more afraid, wondering what she should do when they reach the cave. At some point, Chielo realizes that someone is walking behind her and screams for Agbala to curse the presence. Ekwefi is afraid—she continues to follow but at a greater distance. The journey is long, and late in the night they finally approach their destination in the caves. Chielo chants continuously.
Chielo seems to have supernatural strength here, infused by the gods. Ekwefi decides to fight fate with her strong will, following Chielo against her wishes.
Themes
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Ekwefi begins to doubt herself, wondering if she can do anything if something happens to Ezinma in the caves. When Chielo and Ezinma enter the cave mouth, however, Ekwefi vows that if she hears Ezinma cry, she'll rush into the cave to defend her. She sits and waits for a long time and then spins around when she hears noise behind her. It's Okonkwo.
Ekwefi continues to follow Chielo despite her doubts and fears, revealing how strong her will is. She comes to the conclusion that she is willing to protect her daughter no matter the consequences. Again note the contrast to Okonkwo and Ekwefi. Though it appears that Okonkwo has come this time to support her.
Themes
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
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Okonkwo sits down to wait with Ekwefi, and she recalls their younger days together, when she ran away from her first husband to be with Okonkwo. She had knocked at his door on the way to fetch water, and he carried her into his bed, untying her cloth.
As they wait, Okonkwo and Ekwefi tell stories—a story of her attraction to Okonkwo's masculinity. Even then, she took matters into her own hands and ran away from her husband in a show of free will.
Themes
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon