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Then quite suddenly a thought came upon him. His mother might be dead. He tried in vain to force the thought out of his mind. Then he tried to settle the matter the way he used to settle such matters when he was a little boy. He still remembered the song:
Eze elina, elina!
Eze ilikwa ya
Ikwaba akwa oligholi
Ebe Danda bechi eze
Ebe Uzuzu nete egwu
He sang it in his mind, and walked to its beat. If the song ended on his right foot, his mother was alive. If it ended on his left, she was dead. No, not dead, but ill. (7.26)
By leaving the song untranslated, Achebe emphasizes the importance it has for Ikemefuna beyond words. Perhaps it was sung to him as a young child before he could understand the words and he associated it with his mother long before he could comprehend its meaning.
One of the men behind him cleared his throat. Ikemefuna looked back, and the man growled at him to go on and not stand looking back. The way he said it sent cold fear down Ikemefuna’s back. His hands trembled vaguely on the black pot he carried. Why had Okonkwo withdrawn to the rear? Ikemefuna felt his legs melting under him. And he was afraid to look back.
As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak. (7.27-28)
It is not only Ikemefuna who feels fear when hearing the man so mysteriously clear his throat; Okonkwo, too, we know, fears what is about to come. Every nerve in Okonkwo tells him this is wrong, but when the moment comes, he kills his adopted son. Ikemefuna and Okonkwo’s fears are contrasted here. Ikemefuna fears the men with machetes and death, both of which he has no control over. Okonkwo, on the other hand, fears losing his sense of masculinity – an internal fear which he could control, but instead gives into.