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The Feast of the New Yam is now approaching. It takes place just before the harvest and is an occasion of thanksgiving to the earth goddess, Ani. The night before the feast, the old yams are disposed of and on the new year, all the cooking pots are thoroughly washed before being used for the new crop. Yam foo-foo and vegetables soup is prepared. Guests are invited to partake of the food. The walls of the house are decorated with designs and the women and children anoint and decorate themselves. Okonkwo is not very enthusiastic about the feast. He would rather work in his fields. His suppressed resentment regarding the feast explodes when he thinks that somebody has cut one of his banana trees. When he discovers that the culprit is his second wife, Ekwefi, he beats her and then shoots at her with his gun but fortunately, he misses. In spite of Okonkwo’s outburst, the festival is celebrated with great joy by his family.
On the second day, there is a wrestling contest in which Okonkwo participates. Okonkwo’s wives prepare the evening meal and the food is served by each of their daughters. One of his daughters, Ezinma, discusses the forthcoming wrestling contest. Okonkwo is particularly fond of this daughter, but as usual does not show his love for her.Notes
Since yam is the staple diet, the importance given to it is understandable, and much of the customs of the village are related to the production of this vegetable. Although Okonkwo’s life is dedicated to the production of yams, he sees them only in terms of what financial and political power he can gain. When it comes to the festival, he dismisses it as a waste of time. He does not see the social benefits that yams bring to the community such as celebration of life and community.
This chapter, like the one before it, builds on the increasingly violent nature of Okonkwo and his repressed emotions that result in hurting those he loves. Beating up his wife for marring a banana tree is an extreme action that does not go unnoticed by others in the village although for the most part the beating is condoned and because everything returns back to normal by the next day, domestic violence appears to be a normal occurrence. Fortunately, it is known that Okonkwo, though a great wrestler, is a not a hunter, and hence his aim is terrible. The mention of guns is a first and foreshadows the arrival of Westerners who came after the gun was introduced to Igbo traders.
The reader here is made aware of Okonkwo’s feelings of love and affection when the author mentions Okonkwo’s first meeting with Ekwefi and his love for his daughter Ezinma. This reveals that beneath his cold and stern exterior he is a loving human being. He however hides these emotions as he considers them to be signs of weakness and failure.
A particular superstition that is noted in this scene is when Okonkwo’s first wife calls out to Ekwefi, who answers with a question “Is that me?” Ritual had it that no one replied straightaway to his or her name since it could be an evil spirit calling.