Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
But the most dreaded of all was yet to come. He was always alone and was shaped like a coffin. A sickly odor hung in the air wherever he went, and flies went with him. Even the greatest medicine men took shelter when he was near. Many years ago another egwugwu had dared to stand his ground before him and had been transfixed to the spot for two days. This one had only one hand and it carried a basket full of water. (13.4)
This most dreadful egwugwu seems to have something of a deathly aspect to him – appearing as a coffin, having a sickly decaying odor, and accompanied by flies which are harbingers of death. Apparently, he is one of the most powerful as well, having the power to strike fear into the hearts of fellow egwugwu.
It was then that the one-handed spirit came, carrying a basket full of water. People made way for him on all sides and the noise subsided. Even the smell of gunpowder was swallowed in the sickly smell that now filled the air. He danced a few steps to the funeral drums and then went to see the corpse.
“Ezeudu!” he called in his guttural voice. “If you had been poor in your last life I would have asked you to be rich when you come again. But you were rich. If you had been a coward, I would have asked you to bring courage. But you were a fearless warrior. If you had died young, I would have asked you to get life. But you lived long. So I shall ask you to come again the way you came before. If your death was the death of nature, go in peace. But if a man caused it, do not allow him a moment’s rest.” He danced a few more steps and went away. (13.10-11)
From this scene, we learn that the deathly egwugwu usually comes to with wisdom and helps to improve a dead person’s life in his next reincarnation. Death, with the help of the divine, can be a new beginning and the opportunity for an improved life.
As soon as the day broke, a large crowd of men from Ezedu’s quarter stormed Okonkwo’s compound, dressed in garbs of war. They set fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals and destroyed his barn. It was the justice of the earth goddess, and they were merely her messengers. They had no hatred in their hearts against Okonkwo. His greatest friend, Obierika, was among them. They were merely cleansing the land which Okonkwo had polluted with the blood of a clansman. (13.15)
The gods are beings to be feared, respected, and appeased. Pleasing the gods is far more important than anything, even friendships.