Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Sin

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In Things Fall Apart, sin is defined as a crime against the gods. Such transgressions occur when a member of society violates the most intimate bonds of family, especially with regards to one’s children or somehow insults an ancestral spirit. These sins call for quick and severe punishment, often including animal sacrifices, a heavy fine, various symbolic gestures of atonement, exile from one’s fatherland, or even death. Only when such payment is given can justice be served. If punishment is not doled out, not only is the sinner subject to divine wrath, but the entire community suffers.

Questions About Sin

  1. How is crime distinguished from sin? How are the two accordingly punished? Hint: consider the egwugwu trials.
  2. Do Umuofia punishments fit the crimes? Do they seem arbitrary?
  3. Why is offending the earth goddess such an enormous sin? What assumptions can we make about the role the earth goddess plays in Igbo society?
  4. In comparison to Igbo law, how does the white man’s justice system work? Are the same behaviors considered sins in both cultures? How and why do the punishments for the same crimes differ?
  5. Does Okonkwo sin when he aids in the murder of Ikemefuna?

Chew on This

Okonkwo sins when he murders Ikemefuna. The troubles that follow Okonkwo after the murder are a result of Okonkwo’s sin going unpunished.

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