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Chapters 9 and 10

Chapter 9

That night Okonkwo is able to sleep, and begins to wonder why he had been uneasy before. The next morning Ekwefi pounds on his door to say that Ezinma is dying. Okonkwo rushes out to visit her, then to collect medicinal grasses.

Ezinma is an only child and the center of her mother's world. She calls her mother by her first name and is secretly fed eggs, a delicacy that children are almost never given because it's believed it might encourage them to steal. Ekwefi has buried nine children, and her despair found expression in some of the names she gave them: Onwumbiko ("Death, I implore you"), Ozoemena ("May it not happen again"), Onwuma ("Death may please himself"). The medicine man even determined that she had an ogbanje, one of those wicked children who die so as to enter their mothers' wombs to be born again. He dragged one child's dead body to the Evil Forest to discourage the spirit. When other wives had children, Ekwefi would be depressed. When Ezinma was born, she was listless until Ezinma was four or five, and seemed to be a survivor. Then Ekwefi became loving and anxious.

When Ezinma is old enough, the medicine man digs up Ezinma's iyi-uwa, a charm associated with her ogbanje status, by putting her in a trance and making her lead him to it. The medicine man digs for a long time at the spot she indicates, and finally turns up a rag with a shiny round pebble in it, which Ezinma admits is hers. She has been well for a year since then; this is the first time she has become sick.

Okonkwo brings back the herbs, tells Ekwefi to start a boiling pot of water, throws the medicinal plants in, and puts Ezinma astride the pot on a stool. He covers her with a mat and makes her stay there until she is drenched in sweat and falls asleep in her mother's bed.

Chapter 10

Crowds begin to gather on the village field for a ceremony. From the way they stand and sit, it's clearly a ceremony for men-and there are two parties involved: Mgbafo and her brothers in one group, and Mgbafo's husband and two relatives in the other. An iron gong sounds and drum and flute music begins. The voices of the egwugwu, or ritual dancers, are guttural and awesome: the spirits of the ancestors are emerging from the ground and into the egwugwu house, a sacred place where no woman has ever set foot. Nine egwugwu appear as masked spirits, representing the nine villages in the clan, and dance wildly. Okonkwo is probably the second dancer. Once the spirits have greeted the heads of the quarreling parties, a hearing begins. Mgbafo's husband apparently beat her without mercy and even when she was pregnant, so her family has removed her from her husband's house. Because she's gone, the husband, Uzowulu, now wants her bride-price back. The egwugwu's decision is that if Uzowulu brings wine to his in-laws' house as a peace offering, Mgbafo and her children should return to him and he should behave more moderately.

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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