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He could hardly imagine that Okonkwo was not his real father. He had never been fond of his real father, and at the end of three years he had become very distant indeed. (7.26)
Because he considers Okonkwo his real father, Ikemefuna does not feel fear as he is led into the woods to be slaughtered. The boy considers himself Okonkwo’s true son because of the bond of affection they share – something which Ikemefuna lacked with his biological father.
Okonkwo did not taste any food for two days after the death of Ikemefuna. He drank palm-wine from morning till night, and his eyes were red and fierce like the eyes of a rat when it was caught by the tail and dashed against the floor. He called his son, Nwoye, to sit with him in his obi. But the boy was afraid of him and slipped out of the hut as soon as he noticed him dozing. (8.1)
Even though social structure dictates that Okonkwo had the right to kill Ikemefuna since the boy was neither a blood relation or a clan member, Okonkwo feels horribly guilty. Okonkwo’s lack of appetite for two days gives away his guilty conscience. Even though the feeling was not backed up by clan laws, Okonkwo’s entire household considered Ikemefuna a member of the family because of their affection for him. Nwoye, for his part, now fears his father – if Okonkwo could murder his son Ikemefuna who he loved, what will prevent him from doing the same to the less favored son, Nwoye? When viewing Ikemefuna as a member of Okonkwo’s family, Okonkwo has failed as a father because he didn’t protect his son. At this point, Okonkwo’s family begins falling apart for lack of trust.
At last Ezinma was born, and although ailing she seemed determined to live. At first Ekwefi accepted her, as she had accepted others – with listless resignation. But when she lived on to her fourth, fifth and sixth years, love returned once more to her mother, and, with love, anxiety. She determined to nurse her child to health, and she put all her being into it. She was rewarded by occasional spells of health during which Ezinma bubbled with energy like fresh palm-wine. At such times she seemed beyond danger. But all of a sudden she would go down again…Ekwefi believed deep inside her that Ezinma had come to stay. She believed because it was that faith alone that gave her own life any kind of meaning. (9.25)
Ekwefi’s sole reason for being is to nurture her daughter back to health. After so many disappointments, she pours all the frustrated love she’s held back into Ezinma. It could be said that she keeps Ezinma alive in those first fragile years by sheer force of will and love.