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A Chinua Achebe Bit
From “Things Fall Apart”

The only course open to Okonkwo was to flee from the clan. It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who committed it must flee from the land. The crime was of two kinds, male and female. Okonkwo had committed the female, be-cause it had been inadvertent. He could return to the clan after seven years.

That night he collected his most valuable belong-ings into head-loads. His wives wept bitterly and their children wept with them without knowing why. Obier-ika and half a dozen other friends came to help and to console him. They each made nine or ten trips carrying Okonkwo’s yams to store in Obierika’s barn. And before the cock crowed Okonkwo and his family were fleeing to his motherland. It was a little village called Mbanta, just beyond the borders of Mbaino.

As soon as the day broke, a large crowd of men from Ezeudu’s quarter stormed Okonkwo’s compound, dressed in garbs of war. They set fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals and de-stroyed his barn. It was the justice of the earth god-dess, and they were merely her messengers. They had no hatred in their hearts against Okonkwo. His greatest friend, Obierika, was among them. They were merely cleansing the land which Okonkwo had polluted with the blood of a clansman.

Obierika was a man who thought about things. When the will of the goddess had been done, he sat down in his obi and mourned his friend’s calamity. Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently? But although he thought for a long time he found no answer. He was merely led into greater complexities. He remembered his wife’s twin children, whom he had thrown away. What crime had they committed? The Earth had de-creed that they were an offense on the land and must be destroyed. And if the clan did not exact punish-ment for an offense against the great goddess, her wrath was loosed on all the land and not just on the offender. As the elders said, if one finger brought oil it soiled the others.

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