“You have not eaten for two days,” said [Okonkwo’s] daughter Ezinma when she brought the food to him. “So you must finish this.” She sat down and stretched her legs in front of her. Okonkwo ate the food absent-mindedly. “She should have been born a boy,” he thought as he looked at his ten-year-old daughter.
Okonkwo has a resect for his daughter Ezinma that he does not have for any of his sons. In Chapter 8, Ezinma performs a traditionally feminine duty when she brings her father food. However, when she commands Okonkwo to finish his food and sits down to make sure he follows her order, Ezinma demonstrates a sense of self-possession and assertiveness that Okonkwo considers masculine and wishes his sons had.
Ezinma did not call her mother Nne like all children. She called her by her name, Ekwefi, as her father and other grown-up people did. The relationship between them was not only that of mother and child. There was something in it like the companionship of equals, which was strengthened by such little conspiracies as eating eggs in the bedroom.
This description in Chapter 9 further demonstrates Ezinma’s unusual status in Okonkwo’s household. Just as Okonkwo sees Ezinma as possessing the strength of a boy, Ekwefi sees Ezinma as possessing the maturity of a peer. Ezinma’s status as an equal to the parents rather than a subordinate child signifies just how exceptional her reputation is in Umuofia.
Everybody knew she was an ogbanje. These sudden bouts of sickness and health were typical of her kind. But she had lived so long that perhaps she had decided to stay. Some of them did become tired of their evil rounds of birth and death, or took pity on their mothers, and stayed. Ekwefi believed deep inside her that Ezinma had come to stay.
Ezinma’s unusual status in Okonkwo’s household and Umuofia partly relates to the suspicion that she is an ogbanje—a child who repeatedly goes through cycles of death and rebirth. An ogbanje is notoriously difficult to raise to adulthood, since it leaves its parents at a young age, only to be reborn and die young again, almost never surviving to adolescence. Therefore, the possibility that Ezinma could be a rare example of an ogbanje who decides to stay among the living marks her as exceptional.