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[Okonkwo to Nwoye after he converts to Christianity]: “Where have you been?” he stammered
Nwoye struggled to free himself from the choking grip.
“Answer me,” roared Okonkwo, “before I kill you!” He seized a heavy stick that lay on the dwarf wall and hit him two or three savage blows.
“Answer me!” he roared again. Nwoye stood looking at him and did not say a word. The women were screaming outside, afraid to go in. (17.16-19)
Though Okonkwo asks his son a question, he doesn’t want to hear the answer. He prevents his son from confirming his terrible fears by choking him such that the young man can’t speak.
Why, he cried in his heart, should he, Okonkwo, of all people, be cursed with such a son. He saw clearly in it the finger of his personal god or chi. For how else could he explain his great misfortune and exile and now his despicable son’s behavior? Now that he had time to think of it, his son’s crime stood out in its stark enormity. To abandon the gods of one’s father and go about with a lot of effeminate men clucking like old hens was the very depth of abomination. Suppose when he died all his male children decided to follow Nwoye’s steps and abandon their ancestors? Okonkwo felt a cold shudder run through him at the terrible prospect, like the prospect of annihilation. (17.25)
In a moment of despair, Okonkwo sees one possible road fate could take him down, despite all his efforts to raise Nwoye correctly. He sees, rather prophetically, the extinction of his entire family line.
Every clan and village had its “evil forest.” In it were buried all those who died of the really evil diseases, like leprosy and smallpox. It was also the dumping ground for the potent fetishes of great medicine men when they died. An “evil forest” was, therefore, alive with sinister forces and powers of darkness. It was such a forest that the rulers of Mbanta gave to the missionaries. They did not really want them in the clan, and so they made them that offer which nobody in his right senses would accept. (17.3)
This “evil forest” represents the unknown (and potentially evil) side of nature – the wilderness, an untamed place often hostile to men.