Ogbuefi Ezeudu in Things Fall Apart

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

Ogbuefi Ezeudu is the oldest man in the village in ''Things Fall Apart'' by Chinua Achebe. He serves as a repository of knowledge for the Umuofia clan, and he is a conduit for information about other clans in the area.

Knowledge of Clan Traditions

It is only natural that Ogbuefi Ezeudu would know all about the clan's past, since he is the oldest man in the village in Things Fall Apart. When Okonkwo violates the Week of Peace, a time of rest and celebration that the clan observes before they clear the land for the yam crop, he is required to make a sacrifice to the earth goddess in recompense.

Okonkwo has beaten his wife for leaving his compound without first feeding the children, an act that is prohibited during the Week of Peace. The older men recall that breaking the peace at such a time has rarely occurred before.

Ezeudu says that at one time, the punishment for failing to keep the peace during the sacred week was death. Apparently the clan recognized the irony of such a punishment during a time devoted to convivial relations amongst neighbors, and banned capital punishment for this particular offense.

''My father told me that he had been told that in the past a man who broke the peace was dragged on the ground through the village until he died. But after a while this custom was stopped because it spoiled the peace which it was meant to preserve,'' Ezeudu says.

Knowledge of Other Lands

Some of the men have heard that even a natural death is considered a violation of the Week of Peace in some places. Ezeudu confirms a rumor the other men have heard about the Obodoani. Ezeudu believes the Obodoani have caused problems for themselves in the way they resolve these issues; if anyone dies during the Week of Peace, Ezeudu says, the Obodoani refuse to bury the body. Instead, they throw the body into the Evil Forest.

''It is a bad custom which these people observe because they lack understanding. They throw away large numbers of men and women without burial. And what is the result?'' Ezeudu asks. ''Their clan is full of the evil spirits of these unburied dead, hungry to do harm to the living.''

Ikemefuna

When the Oracle of the Hills and Caves decrees that Ikemefuna should be killed, Ezeudu offers Okonkwo some unsolicited advice. Ikemefuna has been living with Okonkwo's family ever since he was taken from his own family as penance for their part in a crime against a member of the Umuofia clan. Ezeudu knows that Ikemefuna has grown to look upon Okonkwo as his father, and Okonkwo treats Ikemefuna as a son.

Ezeudu visits Okonkwo and informs him of the Oracle's determination that it is time for Ikemefuna to be killed. ''Do not bear a hand in his death,'' Ezeudu warns him. But Okonkwo goes along with the group that plans to carry out the Oracle's instructions to kill Ikemefuna. As a result of his desire to hide his fear and present a manly face to the other men, Okonkwo ends up killing this young man whom he had grown to love.

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