Drums and cannons signal the death of Ezeudu, the oldest man in the village. Okonkwo shivers as he remembers the last time the old man had visited him and advised him not to participate in the killing of Ikemefuna.
Drums and cannons traditionally signal that there is news in the village. Okonkwo's killing of Ikemefuna continues to affect him, though he would never show or admit this to anyone.
The entire clan attends Ezeudu's funeral, as he was a great warrior and held three titles, and even egwugwu show up to pay their respects. The ceremony involves a lot of tumult—the beating of drums, firing of guns, clanging of machetes. In the midst of the last gunshots and cannon fire, it's discovered that Ezeudu's sixteen-year-old son has been killed by a piece of iron from Okonkwo's gun.
The masked gods show up to honor Ezeudu, showing how important he was in the clan. Okonkwo's accident with the gun is a turning point in the plot that can be said to be purely an act of fate, also, since he couldn't control the splintering of the gun. On the other hand, it could also be seen as just an accident.
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Because Okonkwo has killed a fellow clansman, he must flee the clan, but since the crime is of the “female” variety—meaning it's accidental—he's allowed to return after seven years. He and his family pack up their belongings, and friends help them store their yams in Obierika's barn. Just before dawn, they flee to Okonkwo's motherland, Mbanta.
The fact that the type of crime is described in gendered terms shows how much masculine/feminine ideals are embedded even in the language. A “female” crime is an accident, committed without intent, whereas a “male” crime is more aggressive and purposeful.
As the day breaks, a crowd of men from Ezeudu's quarter set fire to Okonkwo's houses, killing his animals and destroying his barn. They do this simply out of justice for the earth goddess rather than out of personal anger. Obierika joins in but wonders why a man must be so severely punished for an accidental crime. He thinks back to his wife's twin children, whom he had been forced to leave to die in the forest because of the law of the land.
The clan feels a sense of inevitability when they carry out traditional punishments such as this one, since they believe that the gods will punish the entire land otherwise. They act not out of personal malice or anger but because they feel they must. Yet there are those who question these traditions, such as Obierika.