The village performs an interesting ceremony which draws the attention of a large crowd. The narrator specifies that the ceremony is for men; women watch only from the peripheries.
Two small groups of people face off as drums beat. One group consists of a woman, Mgbafo, and her brothers, the other group is Mgbafo’s husband, Uzowulu, and his family.
A gong sounds, signaling the beginning of the ritual, and the audience looks towards the egwugwu house, or the building that’s supposed to be the dwelling place of the Umuofia gods.
With the sounding of the gong, the spirits of the Umuofia ancestors come out of the forest and the nine Umuofia gods appear.
Achebe doesn't mean for us to think that real spirits are showing up. The egwugwu take the form of masked men and when they arrive and the narrator notes that one of them has a springy step much like Okonkwo. Basically, we’re meant to guess that the nine egwugwu are actually masked elders of the clan.
The nine gods – one for each of the nine Umuofia villages – are pretty freaky. The main god is called the Evil Forest, which seems a rather fitting name for a dude who has smoke pouring from his head.
The egwugwu sit down and formally greet Uzowulu and Mgbafo’s oldest brother. Then the gods open the floor for Uzowulu to present his complaint.
Uzowulu accuses the other side (his brothers-in-law) of coming to his house, beating him up, and taking away his wife and children. Furthermore, he asserts that his wife’s family refused to return the bride price – the traditional compensation for a runaway wife.
Odukwe, Mgbafo’s eldest brother presents his sister’s case. He refutes Uzowulu, justifying he and his brothers’ actions by claiming that Uzowulu treated Mgbafo violently, beating her unnecessarily and excessively, to the point where she miscarried a baby.
Uzowulu interjects to insist that Mgbafo miscarried when she slept with her lover. The egwugwu point out that no lover would sleep with a pregnant woman.
Mgbafo’s brothers claim that when they stole their sister away, it was because Uzowulu was about to beat her to death. The brothers also threaten that if their brother-in-law “ever beats her again we shall cut off his genitals for him.” Now there's a deterrent.
Uzowulu’s neighbors are called as witnesses, and they agree that the man has been beating his wife.
After the egwugwu consult in private, they declare their sentence. Uzowulu is commanded to go to his in-laws with an offering of wine and beg his wife to return. He is not to beat her anymore.
The in-laws, similarly, are told to return the wife to Uzowulu if he brings them wine.
This decides the case and another group steps forward to present their dispute over land to the egwugwu.