Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
But Ekwefi did not hear these consolations. She stood for a while, and then, all of a sudden, made up her mind. She hurried through Okonkwo’s hut and went outside. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“I am following Chielo,” she replied and disappeared in the darkness. (11.50-51)
Out of Ekwefi’s intense fear that her only daughter will be hurt, Ekwefi finds the desperate courage to follow Chielo and risk the gods’ disapproval.
And then the priestess screamed. “Somebody is walking behind me!” she said. “Whether you are spirit or man, may Agbala shave your head with a blunt razor! May he twist your neck until you see your heels!”
Ekwefi stood rooted to the spot. One mind said to her: “Woman, go home before Agbala does you harm.” But she could not. (11.56-57)
Chielo’s threats of horrible physical injury at the god’s hostile hands understandably mortify Ekwefi. However, her love for Ezinma gives her courage to conquer her fear of the gods.
She had prayed for the moon to rise. But now she found the half-light of the incipient moon more terrifying than darkness. The world was now peopled with vague, fantastic figures that dissolved under her steady gaze and then formed again in new shapes. At one stage Ekwefi was so afraid that she nearly called out Chielo for companionship and human sympathy. What she had seen was the shape of a man climbing a palm tree, his head pointing to the earth and his legs skywards. But at that very moment Chielo’s voice rose again in her possessed chanting, and Ekwefi recoiled, because there was no humanity there. It was not the same Chielo who sat with her in the market and sometimes bought beancakes for Ezinma, whom she called her daughter. It was a different woman – the priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves. Ekwefi trudged along between two fears. (11.62)
The unfamiliar and unseen environment intensifies and exaggerates Ekwefi’s imagination and her fear. So Ekwefi is trapped between two fears – one of the unknown darkness around her and the other of the possessed Chielo abducting her daughter.