Ikemefuna’s Death in Things Fall Apart
Okonkwo’s participation in the slaying of his adopted son, Ikemefuna is a pivotal moment in Things Fall Apart. It is a moment of horror that cannot please Ani, the great earth goddess, the center of community, the ultimate judge of morality for the clan. It is a moment that changes the course of events, a moment eerily paralleled in the death of Ezeudu’s son. It is a moment that ultimately causes Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye’s to abandon his ancestors and become a Christian. It is a moment when the center of community life, the need to honor blood ties and the need to respect the earth goddess, can no longer hold. It is a moment when things fall apart.
"That boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death," advises Ezeudu, the oldest and most respected man in the village (Achebe 57). Although he treats the boy as a son (28), Okonkwo’s greatest fear is to be thought effeminate. He ignores Ezeudu’s advice and accompanies the party that takes Ikemefuna to his death. Ikemefuna feels safe, not believing that harm will come to him while his foster father is with him. As a member of the party moves to kill Ikemefuna, the boy cries out "father" and runs to Okonkwo, who ruthlessly kills him. Okonkwo justifies this killing of his foster son as a show of his own strength and manliness (66). He does not understand that this is no honor in killing a child who rushes to him for protection. He has in fact killed his own blood.
Obierika, Okonkwo’s best friend is wiser, refusing to go on the sacrificial march. He warns Okonkwo that the slaying of Ikemefuna does not please the Earth, and prophesizes, "It is the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families" (67). Shortly after Ikemefuna’s death, Okonkwo‘s rusted gun explodes at Ezeudu’s funeral, piercing the heart of the dead man’s son, killing the boy instantly. For killing...