Things Fall Apart Chapter 10 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

In chapter ten of Chinua Achebe's novel ''Things Fall Apart,'' a great court case is argued before the whole village of Umuofia. Please read on for a brief summary of chapter ten and the court case!

Previously In Things Fall Apart...

After Okonkwo is able to emotionally recover from Ikemefuna's death and Ezinma recovers from her physical illness, things briefly calm down for Okonkwo and his family. Okonkwo can now turn to being an important man in Umuofian society and fulfill his duties as a man with titles. In this lesson, we will look at the court case that takes place in the village, and get an understanding of Okonkwo's duties, as well as the legal system of Umuofia.

Order in the Court!

The chapter begins with a large crowd of villagers gathering on the ilo, or the village's public space where gatherings and events take place. This is a court hearing that is run by the men of the village, and the women are left to stand on the edges of the crowd while the men crowd nearer to the center of the circle. The men with titles sit on stools. At the very front is an empty row of stools, with two groups standing in front of them. This setting gives us an understanding of the roles men and women play in the community.

One group has a man named Uzowulu, who is the person bringing a complaint in front of the court. The other group has a woman named Mgbafo and her brothers in it; Mgbafo is Uzowulu's wife.

The sound of a gong begins the proceedings. The crowd looks toward the house that holds the egwugwu. Egwugwu are high-ranking members of the village, who dress in masks and are filled with the spirits of the ancestors. Each egwugwu represents one of the nine villages in the area. These egwugwu speak with the authority and wisdom of the ancestors of the village and are not only respected, but feared. When the egwugwu come out, the women and children run away, and Mgbafo's brothers must hold her back. Okonkwo is dressed as one of these spirits. Evil Forest, the leader of the egwugwu, calls the court to order.

This is an Igbo mask; masks like these were used in ceremonies of all types. Though this mask was not specifically used in court ceremonies like the one described in the tenth chapter of Things Fall Apart, it is a basic example of what the egwugwu might have worn.

Uzowulu Versus Mgbafo

Evil Forest greets Uzowulu and Odukwe, Mgbafo's brother, who speaks for Mgbafo during the trial. Uzuwulu then begins to tell his side of the story.

Uzowulu's Story

Uzowulu first explains that Mgbafo is his wife and that he paid a fair bride price for her hand in marriage. He explains that he is not in debt to Mgbafo's family, either. He then says that Mgbafo's three brothers came to their house one morning and beat him before taking Mgbafo and their children away to live back at their home. After months, Uzowulu went to Mgbafo's family and argued that if Mgbafo was not coming back home to be his wife, they should return the bride price that he paid for her. They refused to return the money; however, and sent Uzowulu away. Evil Forest then asks to hear the other side of the story from Odukwe.

Odukwe's Story

Odukwe confirms that they beat up Uzowulu, took Mgbafo home, and refused to repay Uzowulu his bride price. He then explains that Uzowulu is a violent man who beat Mgbafo every day, once causing her to miscarry when she was pregnant, and that they had tried to stop him from acting in this way before. Uzowulu calls it a lie and says that Mgbafo cheated on him and miscarried after having sex with her secret lover. But, Evil Forest cuts in and argues that no man would sleep with a pregnant woman.

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