The Sacrificial Egg by Chinua Achebe is a story that focuses on the conflict that arises between two cultures. Hence the theme of the story is the cultural conflict that opposed the African and western communities. In thisstory, the writer presents the conflict between an African civilization known as Igbo and Westernization that was brought about by the Europeans.The setting of the story is in a very small village called Umuru in the mid 1900. Julius Obi, although not a native in Umuru gets himself embracing his own culture, beliefs and the western culture alike. Achebe writing focuses on the co existence of Julius in two worlds, the past, and the modern contemporary African setting. Julius is described as a man who works as a clerk but education made him to be placed above the superstitious stuff. Achebe has used different cultures to describe the clash it has on the lives of young men, thus westernization is indicated to take place in the story because the small African village, Umuru has been taken over by the western culture.
The author wrote about Julius as person who believes in superstition and sacrifice since his education has made him to be aware of scientific evidence. In normal life situations, people do make a lot of sacrifices to seek for better living standards. Thus, in the story, the society has sacrificed Julius the innocence of the young man (Julius) in order to make him able to earn income for a company. Thus, Achebe describes Julius as the scapegoat that has been sacrificed for money (Paradiso 108). Thus, after breaking the egg, Julius forgets it very quickly. Consequently the society neglected the feelings of Julius after loosing his innocence. The sacrificial egg is made to pray for the fortune and people are not concerned about his fate. Being the scapegoat, Julius is made to struggle for his life and eventually experiences his loss of happiness, innocence, and love.
Achebe used the term Sacrificial Egg to be an analogue of Julius soul, and the market is used to symbolize the hollowness that Julius experienced. The presence of corruption in the society made Julius to loose his innocence hence becoming lonely. Achebe described the market to be a clean and a very attractive place, but impacted upon by the presence of the Europeans who turned the place to be a very busy place, congested and very dirty. In this story, we deduce that Julius is symbolizes the market since, before obtaining education, Julius was a very innocent and unpolluted man in the soul. After obtaining education and joining business, he was placed above the superstitious stuff. The young man eventually turned to be very judgmental and quite critical in making decisions. Julius changed his beliefs on the Sacrificial Egg. From the beginning of the story, Julius understood to be using a very nasty tone when making a description of his chief clerk.
Before leaving his village, Julius had a happy life with his fiancée (Janet). Later Janet died of an infection with small pox. There is an irony in the setting of the book because Julius’s intention was to have a happy family with his wife. After the death of Janet, the life of Julius turned out to be emptied just like a deserted market, the emptiness that separated him that caused him to be separated from his past happy life. Achebe used the market to refer to the physical separation of Julius from his native home.
As the story continues, Achebe explains the effects that the Europeans contributed to the native African culture by coming into contact with the Igbo people from the Nkwo market, and the fear of the small pox epidemic Kitikpa as well as the emptiness that Julius experienced.
The setting of the story provides the audience with an understanding of a historical background of the issues tackled in the story. The Sacrificial Egg is a story that takes place a long the Niger River during the era of European colonial period in Africa. Westernization that was brought about by colonization made the inhabitants of Africa to discover work opportunities as clerks in the European companies. At times when the clerk was away, Julius would walk to the window and look on the vast anthill activity.
Superstition is depicted in the book because of the belief that the inhabitants of the Umuru had a common belief that prosperity was connected to a deity that was responsible for casting spells from the ancient times. It was believed that the deity took form of an old woman. This belief conflicted with the arrival of Europeans who brought with them westernization. As stated by the author, Julius thought about the empty market and asked “who would have believed that the great boisterous market could ever be quenched like this? (Black 807). It was believed that the power of Kitikpa that took the form of an incarnated power of small pox was responsible.
The influence of Kitikpa was greatly felt in the near and far villages. The presence of Kitikpa was seen to halt crossings from villages and those who he killed were not killed but decorated (Paradiso 114). The influence of Kitikpa was experienced by Julius as he was told by Ma that he should not see them for a while. Achebe used Ma as a character in his book to make a contrast between two worlds. Ma is described as a Christian, goes to church and approved the idea that Julius should marry her daughter. Her character has been used to describe how old beliefs and traditions are influenced by westernization. The existence of different civilization in the story is depicted by a type writer and a weighing machine that shows the extent that westernization influenced the traditional culture. These tools have been seen to be incorporated in the traditional culture and lifestyle of the Igbo people (Paradiso 119).
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In conclusion, Achebe influenced the reader’s perception on the cultural conflicts that occurs between different cultures with the perception that the egg is the protector of a life. Furthermore, the entire incident in the story can be viewed as a coincidence clashing with the problem of smallpox. In the context of this story, Julius has tried to run away from his traditional beliefs, but eventually returned back to them. In general, this story indicates how people can forget their origin, their cultures, and traditions. Thus, the conflicts that is held by beliefs between various generations is presented and given light to situations such as in this story Sacrificial Egg.