Things Fall Apart Background Information


Political Context

• Approval of the entire clan is necessary before any major decision is made.
• Egwugwu, the representative of the ancestral spirits, are integral in administering tribal justice.
• Ndichie, the elders of the village, have a place of honour in the clan and their advice is respected.
• The priests get their power from the Oracle, and their decisions are never questioned.

Religious Context

• Ordinary people gain access to the gods through the Oracle.
• The gods do not show themselves physically, but speak through the priests or priestesses.
• The ancestors, embodied physically in the egwugwu, are revered.
• There is the belief that the ogbanje, or spirit child, returns to plague its mother, ensuring that all her children die.
• Twins are taboo and placed in the ‘evil forest’.
• The concept of the chi, or a person’s identity in the spirit land, is important in Igbo religious beliefs.
• A good chi can mean success, while a bad chi can mean misfortune.

Economic Context

• Sharecropping provides a financial base for young men who do not inherit a barn from their fathers, or are simply in a financial crises.
• Cowrie shells are the medium of exchange.
• The family unit provides the basis for economic success.
• Each individual, even the children, has a specialized role that contributes to the family’s

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