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[Okonkwo]: “An Umuofia man does not refuse a call,” he said. “He may refuse to do what he is asked; he does not refuse to be asked.” (23.6)
Okonkwo’s maxim illustrates one of the qualities an Umuofia man prides himself on – generosity and willingness to listen. An Umuofia man honors a summoner and hears his words respectfully.
[Okonkwo to Nwoye after he converts to Christianity]: “Where have you been?” he stammered
Nwoye struggled to free himself from the choking grip.
“Answer me,” roared Okonkwo, “before I kill you!” He seized a heavy stick that lay on the dwarf wall and hit him two or three savage blows.
“Answer me!” he roared again. Nwoye stood looking at him and did not say a word. The women were screaming outside, afraid to go in. (17.16-19)
Though Okonkwo asks his son a question, he doesn’t want to hear the answer. He prevents his son from confirming his terrible fears by choking him such that the young man can’t speak.
“The Earth cannot punish me for obeying her messenger,” Okonkwo said. “A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm.” (8.27)
Okonkwo uses a proverb to illustrate his point. He hopes he will not be scalded by the “hot yam” of killing Ikemefuna. But in a deeper sense he says the words with the hope that they might come true, because internally Okonkwo feels deeply guilty about killing his adopted son.