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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.
[Uchendu]: “Is it right that you, Okonkwo, should bring to your mother a heavy face and refuse to be comforted? Be careful or you may displease the dead. Your duty is to comfort your wives and children and take them back to your fatherland after seven years. But if you allow sorrow to weigh you down and kill you, they will all die in exile.” (14.32)
Uchendu warns Okonkwo of willfully displeasing the dead. As spirits, they seem to have some power to influence fate and could, if insulted, bring about destruction on a wide, generational scale.
He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment. Evil men and all the heathen who in their blindness bowed to wood and stone were thrown into a fire that burned like palm-oil. But good men who worshipped the true God lived forever in His happy kingdom. (16.9)
The missionaries depict salvation as a choice one makes between good and evil. One’s own fate hangs in his own hands.