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The Culture of the Umuofia Society Before the Colonial

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Essay title: The Culture of the Umuofia Society Before the Colonial

The culture of the Umuofia society before the colonial

infiltration, may be hard to understand but we are forced by

Achebe to realize it has traditions and customs that make it

work. Although, looking at it from our Judaeo-Christian point of

view we may be appalled by some of their practices. We also have

to realize that they have strengths.

Things Fall apart is the idea of balance and

interdependence, earth and sky, individual and community, man and

woman or different perspectives on the same situation. The

central image of this balance is contained in the Ibo concept of

"chi," which occurs throughout the novel. A persons "chi" is

their destiny, his inner self, "you wouldn't challenge your "chi"

to a wrestling match," as did Okonkwo when he assisted in the

killing of Ikemefuna, whom he loved and who called him father.

Okonkwo sins not only against the earth goddess, protector of

family relations, but also against his inner most feelings or his

"chi." Any bad luck that occurs, people of this culture would

say that you have a bad "chi."

Okonkwo's destiny is marked by bad luck, one reason may be

that he is so driven by the fear of resembling his father that he

struggles to repress part of his personality with predictably

afflicted results.

This was a society where a man was judged by his own

achievement and not that of his fathers. Yams were the primary

crop of Umuofia. A sign of manliness was if you could farm yams

to feed your family. Okonkwo is respected because of his hard

work.

The complex patterns of Umuofia's economic and social

customs materialize throughout this novel as we see Okonkwo

compelled to rid himself of any similarities that his father had.

Unoka had no titles, was lazy and when he died was greatly in

debt.

Some may wonder how a society like the Ibo's functioned, how

they enforce its laws with no kings, no organized police force,

and no standing army. Indeed this is something our "modern"

culture could study. These things were accomplished through the

functions of the masked spirits.

The Egwugwu, represents the village's highest spiritual and

judicial authority. The masked spirits are believed to represent

their ancestors. This supports the myth "The land of the living

was not far removed from the domain of the ancestors." There was

a coming and going between them, especially at festivals and also

when an old man died because an old man was very close to the

ancestors, as we saw when Ezeudu died. "A man's life from birth

to death was a series of transitional rites which brought him

nearer and nearer to his ancestors."

The Egwugwu is made up of the "titled" men of the village,

they have legal, moral and religious authority. They have a

working system of peace and order. this is demonstrated by the

trial of Uzowulu for beating his wife.

They had a sense of community, the week of peace came at

the end of the carefree season and before

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