David Carroll writes, of the novel Things Fall Apart, "This incident is not only a comment on Okonkwo's heartlessness. It criticizes implicitly the laws he is too literally implementing..." (Carroll) The incident that David Carroll refers to is the death of Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna was a young boy who was handed over to the village of Umuofia as compensation for the murder of one of that village's citizens. He is handed over to Okonkwo, a great man in the village, to whom he gives every affection. The brief life with Okonkwo and death of this innocent young man, and the life of Okonkwo himself, is a microcosm of life in Umuofia. Inconsistencies, brutalities, and conflict abound in even the highest of Umuofian life. And as Ikemefuna is led off to be murdered by the man he calls father, "the whole tribe and its values is being judged and found wanting" (Carroll).
When Ikemefuna first arrives in Umuofia, he is housed with Okonkwo because Okonkwo is a great man in the village. He had reached his prime and was a man of wealth. Ikemefuna quickly befriended Okonkwo's eldest son and began calling Okonkwo "father." Soon, however, this seeming peace and civility in the village and the life of the villagers disappears. Okonkwo receives a message from the village elders that the boy, the town's innocence, must be killed off. The boy is lead off to the slaughter completely unaware of his fate, and with his "father" in the company of the killers. When a machete is drawn and the black pot atop Ikemefuna's head is cut down, the boy runs to the man he loved as father. It is he who, lacking the courage to confront the others with his love for the boy, draws his machete and...
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...e on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart" (Achebe, 176). The village of Umuofia held to backward laws and values that "destroy innocent children" (Achebe, 146). The tribe's innocence had to die in order for those who survived to mature. Although Umuofia's peak of innocence may have been when Ikemefuna was handed over to the village, but its maturity would come through the death of Ikemefuna, the tribe's innocence, at the hands of those the tribe called "father." Things Fall Apart clearly illustrates the faults of the African system and way of life through "the series of catastrophes which end with his [Okonkwo's and Umuofia's] death" (Carroll).
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York, New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1994.
Carroll, David. Chinua Achebe. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980.
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