Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
Umuofia was feared by all its neighbors. It was powerful in war and in magic, and its priests and medicine men were feared in all the surrounding country. Its most potent war medicine was as old as the clan itself. Nobody knew how old. But on one point there was general agreement – the active principle in that medicine had been an old woman with one leg. In fact, the medicine itself was called agadi-nwayi, or old woman. It had its shrine in the centre of Umuofia, in a clearing spot. And if anybody was so foolhardy as to pass by the shrine after dusk he was sure to see the old woman hopping about.
And so the neighboring clans who naturally knew of these things feared Umuofia, and would not go to war against it without first trying a peaceful settlement. (2.8-9)
The Igbo people fear what they do not understand – like medicine. They attribute magical properties to it, sometimes even spirits or gods, and fear offending it. Thus, this fear of the supernatural keeps the Umuofia from getting into too many wars.
And in fairness to Umuofia it should be recorded that it never went to war unless its case was clear and just and was accepted as such by its Oracle – the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. And there were indeed occasions when the Oracle had forbidden Umuofia to wage a war. If the clan had disobeyed the Oracle they would surely have been beaten, because their dreaded agadi-nwayi would never fight what the Ibo call a fight of blame. (2.9)
The Umuofia are so superstitious that they will not make any big political moves without first consulting the gods via the Oracle. The implication is that only the gods can judge whether war is appropriate and justified.
Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. (2.12)
Okonkwo’s fear of becoming his father overrides everything else – even fear of the gods. Does this mean that he doesn’t respect the gods? Should he be more god-fearing?