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[Obierika on Okonkwo’s exile]: Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently? But although he thought for a long time he found no answer. He was merely led into greater complexities. He remembered his wife’s twin children, whom he had thrown away. What crime had they committed? The Earth had decreed that they were an offense on the land and must be destroyed. And if the clan did not exact punishment for an offense against the great goddess, her wrath was loosed on all the land and not just on the offender. (13.16)
The fact that the Earth can issue a “decree” shows that the Umuofia consider the land a living being. The words of the Earth, on which the Umuofia depend, cannot be ignored for fear of devastating consequences.
All was silent. In the center of the crowd a boy lay in a pool of blood. It was the dead man’s sixteen-year-old-son, who with his brothers and half-brothers had been dancing the traditional farewell to their father. Okonkwo’s gun had exploded and a piece of iron had pierced the boy’s heart…
The only course open to Okonkwo was to flee from the clan. It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who committed it must flee from the land. The crime was of two kinds, male and female. Okonkwo had committed the female, because it had been inadvertent. He could return to the clan after seven years… (13.16)
Okonkwo kills a boy by accident. This incident could be read as a whim of fate that has devastating consequences on Okonkwo, even though it was inadvertent. An alternative reading is that the accidental crime is Okonkwo’s payback for his poor choice to kill Ikemefuna.
As soon as the day broke, a large crowd of men from Ezeudu’s quarter stormed Okonkwo’s compound, dressed in garbs of war. They set fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals and destroyed his barn. It was the justice of the earth goddess, and they were merely her messengers. They had no hatred in their hearts again Okonkwo. His greatest friend, Obierika, was among them. They were merely cleansing the land which Okonkwo had polluted with the blood of a clansman. (13.15)
The Umuofia believe that killing a brother clansman is a sin against the earth – the provider of life, the matchless nurturer of life, and the ultimate mother. The village believes that the earth will turn against them if the sin isn’t atoned for.