Summary and Analysis
On the second day of the festival, everyone gathers at the village playing field to watch the wrestling contest between men of the village and men of a neighboring village. The first matches, between two teams of boys fifteen or sixteen years old, provide entertainment and excitement before the main events. One of the victorious boys is Maduka, the son of Okonkwo's good friend Obierika. Neighbors greet each other and tension builds until matches between the real wrestlers begin.
The current priestess of the Oracle, Chielo, talks casually with Ekwefi about Okonkwo's attack on her and about Ekwefi's daughter Ezinma, of whom Chielo seems particularly fond.
As the drums thunder, two teams of twelve men challenge each other. Many expect the final match between the two greatest fighters in the villages to be uneventful because of the similar styles of the two wrestlers. However, the spectators are thrilled when the local fighter, Okafo, takes advantage of one of his opponent's moves and suddenly defeats him. The crowd carries the victorious Okafo on their shoulders with pride.
The spectacle of the wrestling matches illustrates the value that is placed on physical agility and strength in the Igbo culture. In ways similar to today's sports, the wrestling events — even in their violence — provide vicarious pleasure for the spectators who consider the victors heroes and often carry them on their shoulders. Many years earlier, Okonkwo himself sparked his reputation as a powerful man by defeating an opponent who had wrestled undefeated for seven years.
This scene also displays the sense of community and kinship among members of the village, as in the brief exchange between Ekwefi and her neighbor Chielo, the priestess of the Oracle Agbala.
The conversation between Ekwefi and Chielo includes several puzzling references to Ezinma:
Chielo: And how is my daughter Ezinma?
Ekwefi: She has been well for some time now. Perhaps she has come to stay.
Chielo: I think she has. How old is she now?
Ekwefi: She is about ten years old.
Chielo: I think she will stay. They usually stay if they do not die before the age of six.
Ekwefi: I pray she stays.
Except for the marketplace and gatherings such as the Feast of the New Yam, the women get little opportunity to visit other villagers who are not in their family. However, note the concern that Ekwefi has for Ezinma, as well as the Chielo's particular fondness for Ezinma, whom she calls "daughter." This scene implies that Chielo, the priestess, perhaps knows more about Ezinma's fate than she is revealing.
silk-cotton tree any of several large, tropical, trees (genera Bombax and Ceiba) of the bombax family that have capsular fruits with silky hairs around the seeds. Here, the tree is revered because it contains spirits of good children as yet unborn.
palm fronds leaves of a palm tree. Here, they are tied together in clusters for "beating the ground" or the legs and feet of the pushing crowd.
Chielo the name of the current priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves.