Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
He [Unoka] died of the swelling which was an abomination to the earth goddess. When a man was afflicted with swelling in the stomach and the limbs he was not allowed to die in the house. He was carried to the Evil Forest and left there to die. There was the story of a very stubborn man who staggered back to his house and had to be carried again to the forest and tied to a tree. The sickness was an abomination to the earth, and so the victim could not be buried in her bowels. He died and rotted away above the earth, and was not given the first of the second burial. Such was Unoka’s fate. (3.8)
The lazy Unoka dies of some kind of abominable illness. His death seems to be a sort of divine justice, paying him back for sinning against his family by not providing for them.
He walked back to his obi to await Ojiugo’s return. And when she returned he beat her very heavily. In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace. His first two wives ran out in great alarm pleading with him that it was the sacred week. But Okonkwo was not the man to stop beating somebody half-way through, not even for fear of a goddess. (4.17)
Okonkwo commits a sin against the earth goddess by beating his wife during the Week of Peace. This is an example of a sin that seems pretty arbitrary. We think it’s bad to beat your wife at all, but apparently the earth goddess thinks domestic abuse is OK long as it isn’t during Peace Week. Regardless, what seems worse than inadvertently committing violence during a period of peace is that Okonkwo deliberately continues to sin even when he realizes his transgression. He seems to lack fear and respect for the goddess.
[Ezeani]: “Take away your kola nut. I shall not eat in the house of a man who has no respect for our gods and ancestors. (4.20)
The priest of the earth goddess, Ezeani, doesn’t just condemn Okonkwo because it was uncool of Okonkwo to sin against the earth goddess (by beating his wife during Peace Week). The people of Umuofia believe that when one man commits a sin against the goddess, she will punish the entire village, not just the offender, unless the sin is atoned for. Thus the people of Umuofia live an interdependent lifestyle with each man’s behavior having consequences on the rest of the clan.