Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe
Summary

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers

13) What is an egwugwu, and why are the villagers horrified when Enoch unmasks one?

According to tradition, any village ancestor who has been buried in the earth returns during an annual ceremony as an egwugwu. In reality, an egwugwu is a clansman wearing a mask representing an ancestor who has come back from the dead. As such, unmasking an egwugwu is viewed as the equivalent to killing the returned ancestral spirit and “reduc[ing] its immortal prestige in the eyes of the uninitiated.” For this reason, the villagers are shocked and horrified when Enoch unmasks one of the egwugwu.