Things Fall Apart Chapter 9 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 9 of Chinua Achebe's novel 'Things Fall Apart,' Ekwefi's daughter Ezinma suddenly falls ill and Ekwefi's tragic history with her past children is covered. Read on for a brief summary of the chapter.

Summary of Chapter Nine

Ezinma's Iba

Okonkwo is sleeping when Ekwefi, Okonkwo's second wife, calls out to him because Ezinma, Ekwefi and Okonkwo's daughter, is very ill. Ezinma has iba - a fever - and Okonkwo leaves to cut some plants in the nearby bush for medicine. Meanwhile, Ekwefi stays with Ezinma, feeling her head occasionally. Ekwefi and Ezinma are extremely close because all of Ekwefi's other children have died; Ekwefi gives Ezinma eggs to eat even though it is not socially acceptable for children to eat eggs, and their egg eating in secret is one of the things that closely bonds them. Their relationship is one beyond simply mother and child because of Ekwefi's awful luck with her past children.

A Hard Life - Ekwefi and Her Ogbanje

Before giving birth to Ezinma, Ekwefi had nine children. All of those children died as infants, and Ekwefi had become increasingly defeated and depressed with each passing. She even gave her children names that were meant to defy, challenge or plead with Death itself, but still her children continued to die.

Nigeria, where the story takes place. The Umuofian people who live here believe that ogbanje, evil childlike spirits, often die and are born again in order to bring sorrow to their mothers.
colonial Nigeria

Okonkwo went to a medicine man after Ekwefi's second child had died to see what might be the problem. The medicine man believed that the children were ogbanje, an evil childlike spirit that would die and be reborn again in order to bring sorrow to the mother. Ekwefi was told to try different things in order to end the spirit's hold over her and she leaves to give birth in a different place for her third child. When that child still dies the medicine man increases his efforts; he orders Ekwefi and Okonkwo to sleep together in a different hut and then mutilates the corpse of the child in an attempt to scare the ogbanje away.

Ekwefi's attitude toward Okonkwo's other wives bearing healthy children is one of bitterness, but not at them; rather, she is bitter toward herself for not being able to have healthy children. With each child that dies, she becomes more frustrated and depressed until Ezinma is finally born. Though Ekwefi expects Ezinma to die as well, Ezinma lives past age three, and as Ezinma survives Ekwefi regains hope. She is extremely protective of and worried about Ezinma for this reason.

Ezinma - Child of Mystery

Ezinma is usually very energetic, but she too has moments of illness throughout her early childhood. However, when Ezinma is nine and recovering from yet another illness, a medicine man comes to visit her to try and break the hold of the ogbanje over Ezinma. This medicine man directs Ezinma to point to the place where she buried her iyi-uwa, which is a small stone that links the ogbanje to the child. If the medicine man finds the iyi-uwa, he can destroy it and end the ogbanje's link to Ezinma.

In the ninth chapter of Things Fall Apart, the reader learns more about Ekwefi
Things Fall Apart

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