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Free Study Guide-Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe-Free Booknotes
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Chapter 11

Summary

One night, Ezinma and her mother are sitting in their hut having their supper. Ekwefi is telling a story about a tortoise and birds which explains why the tortoise’ shell is uneven. When she finishes, Ezinma begins her story. Half way through, she has to break off because they could hear Chielo, the priestess of Agbala prophesying, and calling to Okonkwo. Chielo then enters the hut and insists on talking Ezinma with her since Agbala wanted to see her. Carrying Ezinma on her shoulders, she takes off into the hills. Ekwefi follows her doggedly, though the path is very dangerous and risky. Finally they reach the caves and Chielo enters with Ezinma. Ekwefi is frightened of what might be happening inside. Behind her, she hears a footstep, and finds Okonkwo, who has followed behind her. Both of them wait together outside the cave for Chielo to reappear, and Ekwefi is grateful for his presence.

Notes

The importance of oral tradition is shown in this chapter with Ekwefi’s tale of why the turtle has a broken shell. Ezinma herself is a budding storyteller although she is young. Stories are told to reinforce cultural customs and traditions and to explain unknown phenomena.


Here both Ekwefi and Okonkwo defy tradition and customs in order to protect Ezinma from harm. Even though she is taken by Chielo, who shares a special bond with this young gir, Ezinma’s life is in danger in this scene as it is impossible to know why the Oracle has summoned her. Ekwefi’s llove for her only child is so great that she is prepared to invoke the wrath of the gods, in order to ensure her child’s safety even when Chielo says to her: ‘Woman, go home before Agbala does you harm’, she cannot. Okonkwo shows himself to be a responsible and caring parent as he follows his family into the forest although this image jars with the other incident that occurred in the forest: the killing of Ikemefuna.

The sight of Okonkwo is thrilling to Ekwefi as she realizes how much her daughter means to him and also how much he means to Ekwefi even after all these years. Once again, the reader realizes that despite his hard shell, Okonkwo has qualities that are admirable. Okonkwo’s love for his daughter is portrayed in him having followed Chielo although he would never openly admit it. The readers see in this chapter the dread and awe the people possess have for the unknown powers of Agbala, the Oracle of the Caves and the Hills.

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