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Chinua Achebe's Sacrificial Egg

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Chinua Achebe's Sacrificial Egg

Post by Chinda on Fri May 13 2011, 21:23

The Sacrificial Egg

Julius Obi sat gazing at his typewriter. The fat Chief Clerk, his boss, was snoring at his table. Outside, the gatekeeper in his green uniform was sleeping at his post. You couldn't blame him; no customer had passed through the gate for nearly a week. There was an empty basket on the giant weighing machine. A few palm-kernels lay desolately in the dust around the machine. Only the flies remained in strength.
Julius went to the window that overlooked the great market on the bank of the River Niger. This market, though still called Nkwo, had long spilled over into Eke, Oye, and Afo with the coming of civilization and the growth of the town into a big palm-oil port. In spite of this encroachment, however, it was still busiest on its original Nkwo day, because the deity who had presided over it from antiquity still cast her spell only on her own day--let men in their greed spill over themselves. It was said that she appeared in the form of an old woman in the centre of the market just before **-*-crow and waved her magic fan in the four directions of the earth--in front of her, behind her, to the right and to the left--to draw the market men and women from distant places. And they came bringing the produce of their lands--palm-oil and kernels, kola nuts, cassava, mats, baskets and earthenware pots; and took home many-coloured cloths, smoked fish, iron pots and plates. These were the forest peoples. The other half of the world who lived by the great rivers came down also--by canoe, bringing yams and fish. Sometimes it was a big canoe with a dozen or more people in it; sometimes it was a lone fisherman and his wife in a small vessel from the swift-flowing Anambara. They moored their canoe on the bank and sold their fish, after much haggling. The woman then walked up the steep banks of the river to the heart of the market to buy salt and oil and, if the sales had been very good, even a length of cloth. And for her children at home she bought bean cakes and mai-mai which the Igara women cooked. As evening approached, they took up their paddles again and paddled away, the water shimmering in the sunset and their canoe becoming smaller and smaller in the distance until it was just a dark crescent on the water's face and two dark bodies swaying forwards and backwards in it. Umuru then was the meeting place of the forest people who were called Igbo and the alien riverain folk whom the Igbo called Olu and beyond whom the world stretched in indefiniteness.
Julius Obi was not a native of Umuru. He had come like countless others from some bush village inland. Having passed his Standard Six in a mission school he had come to Umuru to work as a clerk in the offices of the all-powerful European trading company which bought palm-kernels at its own price and sold cloth and metalware, also at its own price. The offices were situated beside the famous market so that in his first two or three weeks Julius had to learn to work within its huge enveloping hum. Sometimes when the Chief Clerk was away he walked to the window and looked down on the vast ant-hill activity. Most of these people were not there yesterday, he thought, and yet the market had been just as full. There must be many, many people in the world to be able to fill the market day after day like this. Of course they say not all who came to the great market were real people. Janet's mother, Ma, had said so.
'Some of the beautiful young women you see squeezing through the crowds are not people like you or me but mammy-wota who have their town in the depths of the river,' she said. 'You can always tell them, because they are beautiful with a beauty that is too perfect and too cold. You catch a glimpse of her with the tail of your eye, then you blink and look properly, but she has already vanished in the crowd.'
Julius thought about these things as he now stood at the window looking down on the silent, empty market. Who would have believed that the great boisterous market could ever be quenched like this? But such was the strength of Kitikpa, the incarnate power of smallpox. Only he could drive away all those people and leave the market to the flies.
When Umuru was a little village, there was an age-grade who swept its market-square every Nkwo day. But progress had turned it into a busy, sprawling, crowded and dirty river port, a no-man's-land where strangers outnumbered by far the sons of the soil, who could do nothing about it except shake their heads at this gross perversion of their prayer. For indeed they had prayed--who will blame them--for their town to grow and prosper. And it had grown. But there is good growth and there is bad growth. The belly does not bulge out only with food and drink; it might be the abominable disease which would end by sending its sufferer out of the house even before he was fully dead.
The strangers who came to Umura came for trade and money, not in search of duties to perform, for they had those in plenty back home in their village which was real home.
And as if this did not suffice, the young sons and daughters of Umuru soil, encouraged by schools and churches were behaving no better than the strangers. They neglected all their old tasks and kept only the revelries.
Such was the state of the town when Kitikpa came to see it and to demand the sacrifice the inhabitants owed the gods of the soil. He came in confident knowledge of the terror he held over the people. He was an evil deity, and boasted it. Lest he be offended those he killed were not killed but decorated, and no one dared weep for them. He put an end to the coming and going between neighbours and between villages. They said, 'Kitikpa is in that village,' and immediately it was cut off by its neighbours.
Julius was sad and worried because it was almost a week since he had seen Janet, the girl he was going to marry. Ma had explained to him very gently that he should no longer go to see them 'until this thing is over, by the power of Jehovah'. (Ma was a very devout Christian convert and one reason why she approved of Julius for her only daughter was that he sang in the choir of the CMS church.)
'You must keep to your rooms,' she had said in hushed tones, for Kitikpa strictly forbade any noise or boisterousness. 'You never know whom you might meet on the streets. That family has got it.' She lowered her voice even more and pointed surreptitiously at the house across the road whose doorway was barred with a yellow palm-frond. 'He has decorated one of them already and the rest were moved away today in a big government lorry.'
Janet walked a short way with Julius and stopped; so he stopped too. They seemed to have nothing to say to each other yet they lingered on. Then she said goodnight and he said goodnight. And they shook hands, which was very odd, as though parting for the night were something new and grave.
He did not go straight home, because he wanted desperately to cling, even alone, to this strange parting. Being educated he was not afraid of whom he might meet, so he went to the bank of the river and just walked up and down it. He must have been there a long time because he was still there when the wooden gong of the night-mask sounded. He immediately set out for home, half-walking and half-running, for night-masks were not a matter of superstition; they were real. They chose the night for their revelry because like the bat's their ugliness was great.
In his hurry he stepped on something that broke with a slight liquid explosion. He stopped and peeped down at the footpath. The moon was not up yet but there was a faint light in the sky which showed that it would not be long delayed. In this half-light he saw that he had stepped on an egg offered in sacrifice. Someone oppressed by misfortune had brought the offering to the crossroads in the dusk. And he had stepped on it. There were the usual young palm-fronds around it. But Julius saw it differently as a house where the terrible artist was at work. He wiped the sole of his foot on the sandy path and hurried away, carrying another vague worry in his mind. But hurrying was no use now; the fleet-footed mask was already abroad. Perhaps it was impelled to hurry by the threatening imminence of the moon. Its voice rose high and clear in the still night air like a flaming sword. It was yet a long way away, but Julius knew that distances vanished before it. So he made straight for the cocoyam farm beside the road and threw himself on his belly, in
the shelter of the broad leaves. He had hardly done this when he heard the rattling staff of the spirit and a thundering stream of esoteric speech. He shook all over. The sounds came bearing down on him, almost pressing his face into the moist earth. And now he could hear the footsteps. It was as if twenty evil men were running together. Panic sweat broke all over him and he was nearly impelled to get up and run. Fortunately he kept a firm hold on himself... In no time at all the commotion in the air and on the earth--the thunder and torrential rain, the earthquake and flood--passed and disappeared in the distance on the other side of the road.
The next morning, at the office the Chief Clerk, a son of the soil spoke bitterly about last night's provocation of Kitikpa by the headstrong youngsters who had launched the noisy fleet-footed mask in defiance of their elders, who knew that Kitikpa would be enraged, and then...
The trouble was that the disobedient youths had never yet experienced the power of Kitikpa themselves; they had only heard of it. But soon they would learn.
As Julius stood at the window looking out on the emptied market he lived through the terror of that night again. It was barely a week ago but already it seemed like another life, separated from the present by a vast emptiness. This emptiness deepened with every passing day. On this side of it stood Julius, and on the other Ma and Janet whom the dread artist decorated.

Chinda

Posts : 57
Join date : 2011-01-27
Location : Moonland

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Re: Chinua Achebe's Sacrificial Egg

Post by Chinda on Fri May 13 2011, 21:24

Chinua Achebe's short story "The sacrificial Egg" illustrates the life of a young African native Julius Obi, and the arising conflicts between two cultures. This short story takes place in a very small village in Africa, called Umuru in the mid 1900's. This young African Native, although no native of Umuru finds himself trapped between his own culture, beliefs and the westernized culture. Although Julius has embraced the western culture, after certain events he eventually finds himself coming back to his own beliefs. Achebe, uses these two very different cultures to demonstrate the clash it produces in this young men's life and, how no matter how hard he has embraced the western culture he was always going to go back to his own beliefs. The small African village in this story has being taken over by the western culture. Westernization is shown in the beginning of the story.

"Julius Obi sat gazing at his typewriter." "There was an empty basket on the giant weighing machine." In these two quotes the typewriter and the weighing machine, odd objects for the African native of this village show perfectly how this town has being westernized. "Julius Obi was not a native of Umuru. He had come like countless others from some bush village island. Having passed his Standard Six in a mission school he had come to Umuru to work as a clerk in the offices of the powerful European trading company .."This quote shows how Julius has himself being westernized. Westernization wasn't welcomed by many of the Umuru natives. The natives had long prayed for their town to prosper and grow

"The strangers who came to Umuru came for the trade and money, not in search of duties to perform.." This shows that people who now came to town, came strictly for business and money, which tells the reader how the town isn't what it used to be. "And as if it did not suffice, the young sons and daughters of Umuru soil, encouraged by schools and churches were behaving no better than the strangers. They neglected all their old tasks and kept only the revelries." This show how even the young ones of this village have being westernized to the point, where they completely neglect their own traditions and beliefs. The small African village located on the bank of the river Niger has a story of its own, that only the old and wise are able to describe. In its own time this village was a market, called Umuru.

During one particular day called the Nkwo day, a deity would cast a spell which called men and women from the four corners of the world to come buy and sell products. "It was said that she appeared in the form of an old woman in the center of the market just before **-*-crow and waved her magic fan in the four directions of the earth-in front of her, behind her, to the right and to the left- to draw to market men and women from distant places." This quote comes to show how these traditions and beliefs were once born in this village. It also shows that these traditions go far back to ancient myths. "The market, tough still called Nkwo, had long spilled over into Eke, Oye and Afo with the coming of civilization and the growth of the town into a big palm oil port." This quote in particular shows that even if this market has being westernized, people who live there still believe in their traditions. There are two characters in particular who have both learned to accept westernization without putting their own beliefs aside.

One of them is Ma, the mother of Julius's bride to be. Although Ma has been westernized trough the conversion of religion she still holds respect for what happens in the village, like Kitikpa. "Such was the state of the town when Kitikpa came to see it and to demand the sacrifice the inhabitants owed the gods of the soil". Kitikpa was an evil deity. "Ma explained to him very gently that he should no longer come to see them "until this thing is over, by the power of Jehovah." Ma although westernized does not put aside her beliefs.

The other character is the Chief Clerk. "The next morning, at the office the Chief clerk, a son of the soil spoke bitterly about last night's provocation of Kitikpa by the headstrong youngsters who has launched the noisy fleet footed mask in defiance of their elders.."The Chief clerk also shows how he respects the traditions and beliefs of this town. Julius, on the other hand has being westernized to the point where he doesn't really believe in Kitikpa, or anything related to his own culture. After going for a walk with Janet, he decides to go along the bank of the river. "Being educated he was not afraid of whom he might meet, so he went to the bank of the river and just walked up and down it." During his walk he soon hears a gong. "He immediately set out for home, half-walking and half-running, for night-masks were not matter of superstition; they were real." This shows how suddenly Julius, although westernized finds himself face to face with this culture he had decided to put aside. While running, Julius finds himself stepping on to something and realizes that he has stepped onto this egg, this egg that was brought for offering. Soon enough Julius finds himself onto the ground hiding from these night-masks fearing for the worst.

You can see that Julius who had tried to run away from his old beliefs had finally come back to them and knew that by stepping onto the egg he had wronged Kitikpa. This story in general shows how people more often than we think forget about their origin, where they came from, and what their cultures and traditions are. "The trouble was that the disobedient youths had never yet experienced the power of Kitikpa themselves; they had only heard of it." Julius being there that night had experienced the power of Kitikpa himself. He knew his life would now be forever changed. Julius was now going to respect these beliefs he had long forgotten about.

Chinda

Posts : 57
Join date : 2011-01-27
Location : Moonland

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