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“The greatest obstacle in Umuofia,” Okonkwo thought bitterly, “is that coward, Egonwanne. His sweet tongue can change fire into cold ash. When he speaks he moves our men to impotence. If they had ignored his womanish wisdom five days ago, we would not have come to this.” (24.10)
Okonkwo considers Egonwanne womanly because his words stop men from acting, renders them impotent. Egonwanne is a retarding force on the masculine Umuofia. Okonkwo’s point is driven further by invoking the fire/ash rhetoric, with fire being masculine and ash being impotent and emasculated.