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The Sacrificial Egg

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Essay title: The Sacrificial Egg

In “The Sacrificial Egg” Chinua Achebe presents the conflict between an African civilization called Igbo and Westernization, specifically Europeans. The story focuses on Kitikpa, a god of smallpox, ravaging the people of Umuru as seen from the emptiness of the market named Nkwo and the story’s main character Julius Obi as he indirectly experiences the effects of the evil god (Votteler 14). Being of African descent Achebe believes that no African writer can betray his heritage (Landow). As the story progresses the effects of the Europeans coming into contact with the Igbo people unfolds as it is seen from the prosperous Nkwo market, the fear imposed by Kitikpa, and the emptiness Julius experiences.

The setting of “The Sacrificial Egg” provides the reader with a historical background regarding the issues seen in the story. The story takes place along the Niger River in Africa during the large up growth of European colonization as seen throughout Africa. The great market situated on the Niger River “was still busiest on its original Nkwo day” (425) despite it’s overflowing effects onto neighboring civilizations. Through the colonization of Umuru, many other close by inhabitants of Africa much like Julius Obi with Standard Six certificates discover work opportunities as clerks of the European Palm Oil trading company (Votteler 14). “Sometimes when the Chief Clerk was away he [Julius Obi] walked to the window and looked down on the vast anthill activity” (426). The people of Umuru believe the market’s prosperity to be connected with the deity who cast spells since its ancient times, taking the shape of an old woman, conflicting with the arrival of Europeans.

“Who would have believed that the great boisterous market could ever be quenched like this?” (426) thought Julius as he looked upon the empty market, distinguishing the past from the present. However, this was the power of Kitikpa, “the incarnate power of smallpox.” The intimidating power of Kitikpa was felt from villages both near and far, as his presence halted crossings between villages he struck. “Those he killed were not killed but decorated” (426) with the pustules characterizing smallpox. Julius experiences the effects of Kitikpa as Ma (Janet’s mother) tells him he should not see them for quite a while. In the last moments together, Julius and Janet “[shake] hands, which was very odd, as though parting for the night were something new and grave” (427), foreshadowing the future fate of Janet. With the presence of smallpox, or Kitikpa if you will, emerges conflicting ideas of the cultural beliefs of a divine being presiding over the village. In contrast, the mundane reality is that of the disease being brought forth from the coming of European settlers shared also with the Christian converts. Julius, however, clung to the former, in that he believed there to be a presence of “members of the spirit world in the world of

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