Summary and Analysis
Part 1: Chapter 12
After Chielo took Ezinma away, Okonkwo was not able to sleep. He made several trips to the cave before he finally found and joined Ekwefi waiting outside the cave. When Chielo came out of Agbala's cave with Ezinma in the early morning hours, she ignored Okonkwo and Ekwefi and carried the sleeping Ezinma home to her bed, with the girl's parents following behind.
On the following day, the village celebrates the next event in the marriage of the daughter of Obierika, Okonkwo's friend. The uri is a ritual in which the suitor presents palm-oil to everyone in the bride's immediate family, her relatives, and her extended group of kinsmen. For this ceremony, primarily a woman's ritual, the bride's mother is expected to prepare food for the whole village with the help of other women.
Ekwefi is exhausted after the preceding night's events. She delays going to the celebration until Ezinma wakes and eats her breakfast. Okonkwo's other wives and children proceed to Obierika's compound; the youngest wife promises to return to prepare Okonkwo's afternoon meal.
Obierika is slaughtering two goats for the soup and is admiring another goat that was bought in a neighboring village as a gift to the in-laws. He and the other men discuss the magic of medicine used in the other village that draws people to the market and helps rob some of them. While the women are preparing for the feast, they hear a cry in the distance, revealing that a cow is loose. Leaving a few women to tend the cooking, the rest go find the cow and drive it back to its owner, who must pay a heavy fine. The women check among themselves to be sure that every available woman has participated in rounding up the cow.
The palm-wine ceremony begins in the afternoon as soon as everyone gathers and begins to drink the first-delivered wine. When the new in-laws arrive, they present Obierika's family with fifty pots of wine, a very respectable number. The uri festivities continue into the night and end with much singing and dancing.
This chapter further contributes to the understanding of several tribal customs and beliefs: the uri ceremony, which illustrates the phase of the marriage process following the agreement on bride-price (Chapter 8); the belief in supernatural powers to attract people to a market and even to help rob them; the law that requires villagers to control and corral their animals or else pay a penalty; and the custom that requires all available women to chase an escaped cow home. These descriptions follow the events of the preceding chapter and illustrate the strength of the villagers' beliefs in the earth goddess and her powers, even when she requires the near abduction of a child.
Yet, in most of the traditional events, the less than complete, blind obedience to a law or custom by some men and women suggests several strong, individual personalities. For example, Ekwefi is certainly one of the less-traditionally constrained women, and Obierika represents men who question some traditions and rituals.
Sexual activity is a subtle part of courtship and marriage rituals. The chant at the end of the celebration, "when I hold her waist beads / She pretends not to know," suggests that sexual anticipation is an enjoyable game for women as well as for men. In the preceding chapter, Okonkwo's protective, manly presence in the darkness by the cave triggers Ekwefi's fond memories of her first wedding night, when he "carried her into his bed and . . . began to feel around her waist for the loose end of her cloth."
umunna the extended family and kinsmen.
a great medicine a supernatural power or magic that may take the shape of a person. In the Umuike market, the medicine assumes the shape of an old woman with a beckoning, magical fan.
yam pottage a watery gruel made of yams.