The Week of Peace in Things Fall Apart Video

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  • 0:03 The Week of Peace
  • 0:45 Breaking the Peace
  • 2:47 Significance
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In 'Things Fall Apart,' many individual events are discussed that have far-reaching significance. In this lesson, you'll learn about the Week of Peace and how it adds to the novel as a whole.

The Week of Peace

Most religions and the societies that observe them have different types of holidays or events that they celebrate over the course of a year. You can see this in Christianity, for example, with events like Christmas, Easter, and Lent. Igbo society is no exception. One of the events they observe, as described by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart, is the Week of Peace.

The Week of Peace is the week right before the yams are planted every year. During this week, no one is allowed even so much as a harsh word. Everyone is supposed to be completely peaceful with everyone else. This is done to honor the earth goddess, so that she'll bless the crops and the village will have a good harvest.

Breaking the Peace

Of course, since Things Fall Apart is a work of literature, the Week of Peace has more significance than simply as a religious observance. The significance comes from the main character, Okonkwo, and his detrimental actions.

One night during the Week of Peace, Okonkwo is waiting for his youngest wife, Ojiugo, to bring him dinner. When she doesn't come, he goes to find out why. He discovers that she went to a neighbor's hut to get her hair plaited and hasn't come back yet. Not only does she not have Okonkwo's dinner ready, as he expects her to have, but she didn't get her children dinner either, and one of the other wives had to do it. This makes Okonkwo extremely angry, and 'when she returned he beat her very heavily. In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace.'

This is not an abnormal reaction for Okonkwo, who has a terrible temper, and even when the other wives race out to remind him what week it is, Okonkwo 'was not the man to stop beating somebody half-way through, not even for fear of a goddess.'

In his tribe, this is a huge offense to the earth goddess. A local priest visits him and rejects a traditional offer of a kola nut: 'I shall not eat in the house of a man who has no respect for our gods and ancestors,' then, further admonishing him, says, 'The evil you have done can ruin the whole clan. The earth goddess whom you have insulted may refuse to give us her increase, and we shall all perish.'

Okonkwo is commanded to make amends. He has to take a goat, a hen, some cloth, and a hundred cowries to the earth goddess' temple. Cowries are a type of shell, and the main currency in the society.

It has been many years since anyone in the village of Umuofia (Okonkwo's village) broke the sacred peace, so of course that's all anyone can talk about for the rest of the week. Okonkwo was not a humble man, 'Inwardly, he was repentant. But he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors that he was in error. And so people said he had no respect for the gods of the clan. His enemies said his good fortune had gone to his head.'

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