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Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter 3

A story is told in Umuofia about Okonkwo's father, Unoka, and his visit to the Oracle to find out why he always had a miserable harvest. The Oracle is named Agbala and is always consulted in misfortunes. This Oracle lives in a shrine in a cave with an opening just big enough to crawl into on one's belly, and his priestess stands by the sacred fire and interprets the will of the god. When Unoka arrived there, he began to tell of his bad luck despite sacrificing to the gods, but the priestess interrupted him to scream that he didn't prosper simply because he was lazy and did not work like a man. Unoki had a bad chi or personal god and was ill-fated. He died of "the swelling which is an abomination to the earth goddess"; victims of this disease were not allowed to die at home and instead were abandoned in the forest, unburied. Unoki took his flute with him when he was led out to die.

Okonkwo was possessed by the fear of his father's shameful life and death. He contracted to work for a wealthy man named Nwakibie, after going through a ritual of breaking a kola nut and drinking palm wine with the man's family. Okonkwo receives 800 yam seeds from Nwakibie in exchange for giving him two thirds of the harvest, and eventually manages to rebuild his father's barn and feed his mother and sisters while share-cropping for Nwakibie. (They worked hard but grew women's crops like coco-yams, beans, and cassava, not yam, which was a man's crop.) That first year, however, there is first a drought and then a flood, and no farmer has a good crop. Okonkwo nearly despairs, and Unoki offers him words of consoling wisdom which aggravate Okonkwo still more.

Chapter 4

Okonkwo can be very harsh to unsuccessful men because he has worked so hard. At an ancestral feast, he is reproved by the entire gathering and encouraged to apologize because he called a man without any titles "agbala"-the insulting word which a playmate had once called Okonkwo's father. Everyone respects the hard work of Okonkwo, however, and give him positions of trust.

The village's hostage, Ikemefuna, stays in Okonkwo's household for three years while the elders apparently forget about him. Okonkwo's wife is very kind to him, but he still misses his family: during the first few weeks, Okonkwo has to threaten him with a stick before he will eat in his new home. Ikemefuna is lively and has clever skills, and becomes very popular, even with Okonkwo, who tries to hide his affection.

That year Okonkwo breaks a holiday called the Week of Peace, which occurs in the carefree season between harvest and planting. His youngest wife, Ojiugo, doesn't prepare dinner on time and so he beats her when she returns home, forgetting it is the sacred Week of Peace. The neighbors hear, and Ezeani, the priest of the Earth goddess Ani, warns Okonkwo that his sacrilege could harm the harvest and orders him to make a large sacrifice in penitence. Okonkwo sacrifices and repents, but is too proud inwardly to admit to his neighbors that he was wrong, which makes the other villagers think he has no respect for the gods. His offence is a rare and serious one, so they mutter that he was not punished enough.

Okonkwo, his son Nwoye, and Ikemefuna prepare yam seeds for planting. Okonkwo berates them for not being more skilled at the job, especially since yams are a symbol of manliness, even though he knows they are too young to be perfectly skilled at the task. After they plant the rainy season begins, and everyone stays indoors waiting for the crops to grow and the rains to stop. Nwoye and Ikemefuna become extremely close, and Ikemefuna tells Nwoye many stories and vivid folk tales from his home clan.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11 and 12
Chapter 13
Chapters 14 and 15
Chapters 16 and 17
Chapters 18 and 19
Chapters 20 and 21
Chapters 22 and 23
Chapters 24 and 25
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25


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