Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
[Uchendu]: “A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme. Is it right that you, Okonkwo, should bring to your mother a heavy face and refuse to be comforted? Be careful or you may displease the dead. Your duty is to comfort your wives and children and take them back to your fatherland after seven years. But if you allow sorrow to weigh you down and kill you, they will all die in exile.” (14.32)
In Okonkwo’s culture, disrespecting your family is a sin. According to Uchendu, Okonkwo is committing a sin by despairing while in exile here in his motherland. Not only is he is dishonoring his mother who raised and nurtured him, but he disrespects his wives and children by not setting a positive example for them in exile. If he doesn’t shape up, he’s not the only one who will suffer the consequences, his family will too. Again we see that sin is a community affair and not just the private business of a single individual.
Now that he had time to think of it, his son’s crime stood out in its stark enormity. To abandon the gods of one’s father and go about with a lot of effeminate men clucking like old hens was the very depth of abomination. Suppose when he died all his male children decided to follow Nwoye’s steps and abandon their ancestors. Okonkwo felt a cold shudder run through him at the terrible prospect, like the prospect of annihilation. (17.25)
Okonkwo considers his son’s betrayal as evil and a sin. Is Nwoye’s behavior a sin, though, or is it another way that the goddess or karma is punishing Okonkwo for killing Ikemefuna?
It was in fact one of them [a former osu] who in his zeal brought the church into serious conflict with the clan a year later by killing the sacred python, the emanation of the god of water.
The royal python was the most revered animal in Mbanta and all the surrounding clans. It was addressed as “Our Father,” and was allowed to go wherever it chose, even into people’s beds. It ate rats in the house and sometimes swallowed hens’ eggs. If a clansman killed a royal python accidentally, he made sacrifices of atonement and performed an expensive burial ceremony such as was done for a great man. No punishment was prescribed for a man who killed the python knowingly. Nobody thought that such a thing could ever happen. (18.16-17)
The killing of the sacred python is obviously a sin since that particular snake is the physical manifestation of a god. However, the very thought of killing it intentionally is so unthinkable that the Mbanta are reluctant to admit it might have happened.