“He was a man of action, a man of war…On great occasions such as the funeral of a village celebrity he drank his palm-wine from his first human head.” (Page 10)
This quote introduces us of to Okonkwo’s tradition to drink his palm-wine from a human skull. This shows us the difference between Okonkwo and Ibo. This also shows that Okonkwo admires men who are tough fighters as well. He rejected his father, a man who was afraid of the sight of blood, partially because he never became a fighter.
“Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness.”(Page 13)
The quote emphasizes that Okonkwo felt that his father was a failure. According to Okonkwo, his father possessed unsuitable feminine qualities. This is one of the fundamental causes which cause him to commit some silly acts. His actions also results in his eldest son in becoming a “failure” (in Okonkwo’s opinion) as well. His son possesses none of the qualities that Okonkwo admires.
“An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb. Okonkwo remembered his own father.”(Page 21)
This Ibo proverb shows how much Okonkwo hates his father. He felt that he was a failure and he basically rejects everything that his father stood for. He is ashamed of his father, primarily because of his coward-like qualities, his failure to rise up in society, and his failure to become a warrior.
“But he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors that he was in error. And so people said he had no respect for the gods of the clan. His enemies said that his good fortune had gone to his head.” (Page 33)
In this quote, Achebe portrays Okonkwo’s character. Okonkwo clearly shows a lack of thought topped by his pretentiousness. He was not a very likable person. Thus, people hated him and his achievements and was respected by very few. Later on in the novel, we also see another characteristic develop in Okonkwo – hypocrisy. In those later chapters, he will reject everything he and his tribesman stand for.
“The Feast of the New Yam was held every year before the harvest began, to honor the earth goddess and the ancestral spirits of the clan. New yams could not be eaten until some had first been offered to these powers. Men and women, young and old, looked forward to the New Yam Festival because it began the season of plenty–the new year.” (Page 36)
When we were reading Great Expectations, we were asked to carefully analyze the food present in the novel. The food present in Things Fall Apart is as significant. Yams was the main source of food. In fact, the yams were so highly regarded in the society that they were often called the “the king of the crops.” Further, people utilized the yams for all traditional celebrations. This food can be linked with the religious and ancestral societal spirits. Certain celebrations such as the New Yam Festival took place to honor certain foods. Chinua Achebe used agriculture to express certain characteristics of each festival and celebration of the Igbo society.
“The wrestlers were now almost stillin each other’s grip. The muscles on their arms and their thighs and on their backs stood out and twitched It looked like an equal match.” (Page 50)
Although this chapter may seem significant it actually has a very significant common idea – the wrestling match. Although wrestling may seem like a brutal sport, it was an integral part of the local culture and society. Tribal customs outline what every member is supposed to do. Without customs, a culture does not exist. Moreover, wrestling matches for the Ibo village signified a boy becoming a man. The only way to prove himself worthy to be a man is to wrestle. This shows the importance of physical strength in the tribe.
“No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man.” (Page 53)
Okonkwo, the protagonist of the novel, is a very gender-role oriented man. When women gained the power to trade, we are made aware that their status in society is progressing upwards. Trade changed basic family relations and the ideas upon which Igbo culture was established. It seems the idea that a man should “rule his women and children” does not perhaps come from Okonkwo himself, but rather from the Igbo culture itself. Overall, however, this quote symbolizes that women were looked upon as being inferior to men at the time.
“When did you become a shivering old woman,’ Okonkwo asked himself, ‘you, who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed.” (Page 65)
The Ibo culture is very different from modern culture as shown by the novel. One clear difference between most modern societies and the Ibo society was that warfare between different clans or tribes does not occur. The Ibo culture praises manliness and parades fighters. Today, society teaches us to honor warriors who fight against other countries, rather than with regional clans. This quote shows that vast difference between the two time periods.
“For the first time in three nights,Okonkwo slept.He woke up oncein the middle of thenightand his mind went back to the pastthreedays without making him feel uneasy. He began to wonder why he had felt uneasy at all.” (Page 75)
In this quote, we see that Okonkwo is noticing something wrong. He feels that something is simply not right, yet he cannot figure what it quite is. Later on in the novel, we will learn that “things fall apart.” This quote is an indication that something wrong will happen. This shows Achebe using foreshadowing to provide insight into what might happen next.
“Okonkwo’s wives, and perhaps other women as well, might have noticed that the secondegwugwuhad the springy walk of Okonkwo. And they might also have noticed that Okonkwo was not among the titled men and elders who sat behind the row ofegwugwu. But if they thought these things they kept them to themselves.” (Pages 89-90)
This quote portrays a scene in much detail while also using humor. The “thoughtful silence” of the women is extremely ironic. The quote reveals the attitude of women on the topic of power. Here, the women also reveal that they posses more knowledge of reality as compared to what they wish to reveal. Therefore, Achebe seems to recognize the importance and equality of women, something which was not usually regarded in a male dominant society.
“’Go home and sleep,’ said Okonkwo. ‘I shall wait here.’” (Page 108)
Okonkwo seems to genuinely love his family. He also seems to have genuine concern over the welfare and wellbeing of his children. In this quote, Okonkwo demonstrates his concern over the safety of his family. Although some would argue that Okonkwo’s “iron fisted” rule clearly shows no love for his family, I would differ. Perhaps, these beatings, instead, represented the way people acted in the society at that time. Physical punishment was very common in the era. Therefore, it is possible that Okonkwo was only using the beatings as a method to teach his children discipline. Basically, Okonwo loves his family, however, he is afraid to show this quality since her fears that it might portray him as being feminine.
“Okonkwo was also feeling tired, and sleepy, for although nobody else knew it, he had not slept at all last night.” (Page 112)
Chapter 12 marks the first time that Okonkwo seems to be tired. This was a quality that he detested. Achebe shows Okonkwo’s tiredness to conflict with his earlier beliefs. This shows Okonkwo’s hypocritical nature. The fact that Okonkwo broke his vow is crucial since they were the foundation of his life. This will cause problems for him further on in the novel.
“The only course open to Okonkwo was to flee from the clan.” (Page 124)
In the second part of the novel, Achebe uses several incidents that hold back Okonkwo from the commendation of his tribesman, establishing asimilarity towards his own father. This was surprising considering his own hatred for his father. In this quote Okonkwo accidently kills the tribesman’s son and then escapes from the village to hide from any punishment. This shows his cowardness, a characteristic possessed by his father. This also shows Okonkwo’s hypocrisy. After all, he, himself, looked down upon cowards.
“It was like beginning life anew without the vigor and enthusiasm of youth, like learning to become left-handed in old age.”(Page 131)
Okonkwo, after noticing change in his society, felt difficult to go on with his life. He had to start a news chapter in his life. This quote illustrates Okonkwo as a person who seems to have lost his will to live life. Okonkwo’s quality’s and his goal in becoming a fighter, unlike his father, fade away and he becomes a different man.
“Those were good days when a man had friends in distant clans. Your generation does not know that. You stay at home, afraid of your next-door neighbor. Even a man’s motherland is strange to him nowadays.” (Page 137)
In this quote, Unchendu is telling Okwondo about the past. Although, the quote refers to men interacting within their classes, on a deeper level, it shows the change that has occurred within the society. People are changing and tradations are changing as well. The traditions that the people of the society want to stay the same are changing as well. This will eventually be the “things” that fall apart. Yet, all of this was expected. After all, the title of the novel is “Things Fall Apart.” Since everything was going so perfectly, something was bound to happen.
“The missionaries had come to Umuofia. They had built their church there, won a handful of converts and were already sending evangelists to the surrounding areas and villages.” (Page 143)
The invasion of the Europeans of Africa was expected. Achebe mentions that the missionaries were moving there. Although, I do not endorse the Europeans coming into Africa, the Europeans coming into the village illustrated a very interesting idea – the clashing of cultures. Their invasion of the villages illustrated how the traditional values of the Umuofia society could be so easily changed by this modern theology. This gives everyone a chance to think for themselves, rather than simply following what was traditionally thought of to be right. It gave the people a choice. This choice was taken by Nwoye who made his own path in life.
“Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.”(Page 153)
This quote is metaphor for a very important idea. This comes after Nwoye’srejection of traditional Igbo values and conversion to Christianity. Nwoye, the oldest son of Okonkwo, is lazy and weak (according to Okonkwo). This quote emphasizes the realization of Okonkwo that his behavior leaves powerlessness in others, especially his son. Okonkwo believes the Nwoye and his father posses the same weakness.
“In the land of his fathers where men were bold and warlike. In these seven years he would have climbed to the utmost heights. And so regretted everyday of his exile” (p.163).
This excerpt also emphasizes Okonkwo’s desire for power and status. During his exile, Okonkwo got in touch with the feminine side inside him. Okonkwo is a man who loves courage and Umuofia was full of men who fit that description. It seems that Okonkwo will go back to Umuodia and everything will have changed. After all, the title of the novel is “Things Fall Apart.” Nothing has “fallen apart,” yet so something is bound to happen. This idea shows that Achebe, like Charles Dickens, too, uses the idea of foreshadowing.
“I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice.” (Page 167)
This quote is told by an elder to Okwondo. Kinship and connections, which have been crucial parts of the Ibo culture, seem to “fall apart” as the novel progresses. This quote sparks questions in my mind. Was there any fragmentation amongst the Ibo people from colonization? The Ibo people gathered for wrestling matches and other festivities. Okonkwo clashes with his culture very often.
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” (Page 176)
Obierika mourns over the white man coming to Africa. However, at the same time, he believes that it is the Africans’ fault for letting the white man come. Mr. Brown, the first white missionary, believes that it is necessary to act peacefully in order to convert people. When Reverend Smith replaces him, he goes against the indigenous tribes and treats them badly.
“He mourned for the clan, which he saw breaking up and falling apart and he mourned for the warlike men of Umuofia, who had so unaccountably become soft like women” (Page 183)
Okonkwo wanted that the ideology of his clan should survive. The society to have several violent attributes. By giving into the Christians, Umuofia broke up and fell apart and turned as “soft as women.” I believed that Okonkwo did not pay the consequences because he killed the messenger. Okonkwo had killed others before. Okonkwo died because he did it for himself and the beliefs of the clan.The quote above not only shows Okonkwo’s dismay at the fall of the clan, but also his hatred of feminine qualities, a controversial topic in the novel.
He saw things as black and white.And black was evil.He saw the world as a battlefield in whichthe children of light were locked in mortal conflict with the sons of darkness. (Page 184)
Mr. Smith speaks against the god Baal. Many struggles against Baal have been mentioned in the Bible. This shows Achebe’s criticism of racism. Achebe criticizes the “black and white” idea. Most racism is based on stories rather than any practical events. Therefore, this view has modified reality, something which Achebe seems to be very against.
“For the first time in many years Okonkwohad a feeling that was akin to happiness. The times which had altered so unaccountably during his exile seemed to be coming round again. The clan which had turned false on him appeared to be making amends.” (Page 192)
This quote symbolizes a change, something which has happened very rarely in the novel. The status of the clan remains somewhat the same in various portions of the novel. However, at this time, the tribe is prosperous which is unlike the norm. However, this happiness will not last for long. After all, the novel has to live up to its expectations which are clearly revealed in the novel – something must fall apart. This indicates that perhaps the tribe will disintegrate in the last few chapters. This might lead to a drastic turn in the novel.
“He knew that that Umuofia would not go to war. He knew because they had let the other messengers escape” (Page 205).
Okonkwo’s suicide meant more than his own tragedy. It symbolized the finish of his society and all the values that prevailed. I think he killed himself because he felt there was no more hope in believing that his tribe would survive and defend itself. Okonkwo tried to represent that everything his tribe wanted. If the tribe wasn’t going to survive with the way people were growing up, then he wanted to die too. If the society’s life was going to be taken, his was going to be taken too.
“He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought:The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.” (Page 209)
This quote indicates the racist attitude that the District Commissioner has towards the local tribes. He is a pompous man who thinks he understands the indigenous culture and tribes, while he clearly does not. While he feels that he is bringing peace to the region, he is clearly doing nothing of the sort. He also seems to be very shallow. He makes remarks on “love of superfluous words” of the villagers. In this, he mocks the language of the villagers.