Summary and Analysis
Okonkwo finally enjoys a good night's sleep since the death of Ikemefuna, when suddenly, he is awakened by a banging at his door. His wife Ekwefi tells him that Ezinma is dying. Ekwefi's only living child, Ezinma is the light of her life; her nine other children have died in infancy. Ezinma is also a favorite of Okonkwo, and because of her spirit and cleverness, he sometimes wishes that she had been born a boy. Now she lies suffering with fever while Okonkwo gathers leaves, grasses, and barks for medicine.
Ezinma has survived many periods of illness in her life, and people have considered her an evil ogbanje, a child who dies young because she is possessed by an evil spirit that reenters the mother's womb to be born again. But she has lived much longer than Ekwefi's other children, and Ekwefi believes faith will bring the girl a long and happy life. A year ago, she was reassured when a medicine man dug up Ezinma's iyi-uwa, an object buried by ogbanje children. After Ezinma led the medicine man to the exact spot, he dug a deep pit in which he finally found a shiny pebble wrapped in a rag. Ezinma agreed that it was hers. The unearthing of the iyi-uwa was thought to break Ezinma's connection with the ogbanje world, and everyone believed that she would never become sick again.
At last, Okonkwo returns from the forest and prepares the medicine for his daughter, who inhales the fumes from a steaming pot and soon sleeps again.
Just when Okonkwo's guilt over killing Ikemefuna seems to lessen, his rarely displayed devotion to his family is again tested. When Ekwefi informs him of his daughter's illness, he rushes out in the middle of the night to hunt for medicine in the woods. By nature, Okonkwo is not a cold and heartless man; he simply cannot escape the haunting images of his despised father's womanly qualities.
Ekwefi's dedication to her daughter Ezinma exemplifies the important role children play in a woman's life in Umuofian society. Ekwefi says that children are a "woman's crowning glory," and before Ezinma was born, her own life was consumed with the desire to have a healthy child. But nine times, she lost children in infancy. A woman's status in Igbo society is related to how many children she bears and how many of them are male.
But although women's child-bearing abilities are an important aspect of their status, Okonkwo and Ekwefi's deep concern and fondness for Ezinma shows that, despite the divide between manly and womanly qualities, woman play an essential role in Igbo society. Women are responsible for preparing most of the celebratory activities, which strengthen relations within the village and with other communities. Women also create the decorations for the huts as well as elaborate body art.
Another important aspect of women in Igbo society is represented by Chielo, who is significant because, as a woman, she speaks on behalf of the God Agbala. Chielo refers to Ezinma as her "daughter," which may indicate that she will replace Chielo's position as priestess.
In Chapter 6, Ekwefi was hopeful that Ezinma had "come to stay." This observation foreshadowed that Ezinma was no longer an ogbanje because the medicine man dug up her iyi-uwa.
iba fever, probably related to malaria.
ogbanje a child possessed by an evil spirit that leaves the child's body upon death only to enter into the mother's womb to be reborn again within the next child's body.
iyi-uwa a special stone linking an ogbanje child and the spirit world; The ogbanje is protected as long as the stone is not discovered and destroyed.