Things Fall Apart


Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Okonkwo begins to sleep well again after three nights, but then Ekwefi wakes him in the morning by banging on his door. She says that Ezinma is dying, and Okonkwo rushes to Ekwefi's hut. He begins preparing a medicine of leaves and grasses and barks, while Ekwefi kneels beside Ezinma, measuring her fever. Ekwefi and Ezinma have a very close relationship that encompasses the companionship of equals in some ways, in addition to the mother-daughter bond. Her daughter calls her by her first name, and she sneaks Ezinma delicacies such as eggs.
The fact that Ezinma calls Ekwefi by her first name is significant because it demonstrates how their relationship is that of equals in some ways. Okonkwo also demonstrates that he cares for Ezinma when he springs to action, gathering medicines. This is still in keeping with his idea of masculinity, since he is more comfortable with actions than he is with words.
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Ekwefi's nine previous children died in infancy, and a medicine man said that each child was in fact the same ogbanje, one of the wicked children who died and entered their mothers' wombs to be born again. By the time Ezinma was born, Ekwefi had lost hope, but when Ezinma lived past the age of six, she became determined to nurse her child to health. A year ago, a medicine man had also dug up Ezinma's iyi-uwa, a smooth pebble that held her connection to the world of ogbanje, giving Ekwefi further hope. However, with this new fever, Ekwefi begins to worry again.
Here we see an example of some of the beliefs that the Umuofia hold regarding childbirth and deaths. Although they believe that Ekwefi is cursed with an ogbanje, she fights back with the medicine man's ritual. There is some question as to how much she can actually control the fate of her child.
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Okonkwo returns with ingredients, and he and Ekwefi prepare the medicine. Once the medicine is ready, he forces Ezinma to sit under a blanket with the steaming pot. She struggles, but is held down, and when at least the blanket is removed, she falls asleep on a dry mat.
This is a traditional form of medication, and again Okonkwo demonstrates his care through more masculine actions as opposed to feminine words.
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