Things Fall Apart: Quote Hunt
-After Nwoye is lured into the Christian religion and abandons his culture and family, Okonkwo is ashamed and states, “you have all see the great abomination of your brother. Now he is no longer my son or your brother. I will only have a son who is a man, who will hold his head up among my people” (172). Nwoye’s father disowns him only because he chooses a path untraditional to his culture. The serious, frustrated, and unhappy mood that is created in Okonkwo’s statement gives the reader an idea of how much the Ibo culture values tradition, choice, and family.
-When Nwoye is informed of Ikemefuna’s death, the narrator states, “a deathly silence descended on Okonkwo’s compound…throughout the day, Nwoye sat in his mother’s hut and tears stood in his eyes” (58). Achebe describes the character’s emotions in order to display a sense of hopelessness and despair to the reader. The reader must empathize with such emotions and moods to truly see the rising difficulties each character has to face.
-Before the first messenger reported Ogbuefi’s wife’s murder, the reader takes notice to Okonkwo’s primary thoughts when the narrator states, “he knew something was certainly amiss. He had discerned a clear overtone of tragedy in the crier’s voice…Darkness held a vague terror for these people, even the bravest among them” (9). With this statement, Achebe creates a dark mood foreseeing events, but a pensive mood in regards to Okonkwo and his feelings. By entwining both moods, Achebe is able to convey how their culture is in tune with all events, present and future.
-A conflict rises between the newly established church and the native village; thankfully, the problem is resolved and people come to the conclusion that there is no need to fight. The narrator comments, “the death showed that the gods were still able to fight their own battles. The clan saw no reason then for molesting the Christians” (161). The tensions between the village and the new church is expected, therefore a mood of regularity and sympathy is set. Achebe is hinting that there should not be a certain religion forced on any civilization, that it should be a right to choose and not adhere to tradition; there is no need for conflict and Achebe is able to show a transformation in moods by using a series of events to convey his own thoughts and feelings.
-In the final section of the novel, after the seven years of exile had almost passed, the narrator describes Okonkwo’s feelings of his homecoming when explaining, “even in his first year in exile he had begun to plan for his return. The first thing he would do would be to rebuild his compound on a more magnificent scale” (171). Achebe builds up a mood of happiness and excitement. This mood allows the reader to accept a different side of Okonkwo, enjoy his want for change, and anticipate his return.
-Preceding Ikemefuna’s induction to the village, Okonkwo has a certain liking towards him, but the narrator give a refletion of Okonkwo’s outer disposition when stating, “even Okonkwo himself became very fond of the boy–inwardly of course. Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger” (28). The narrator openly tells the reader than Okonkwo suppresses his emotions and removes himself from all feelings except for anger. Since Okonkwo is the main representation of masculinity in the novel, the hidden connotation the reader sees is that all men should stay silent and unexpressed unless it is to display anger and power.
-From the command of the oracle, Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna and Nwoye eventually discovers this act. The narrator describes, “He did not cry. He just hung limp” (61). Nwoye reflects the actions that of his father, he silences all emotions. Although Nwoye is opposite of his father, this event forces him to suppress his feelings, similar to what his father does. Achebe notes that actions and emotions should not be suppressed, for silencing feelings only creates more pain.
-After Obierka shared her story of the white man who ventured into Abame, Uchendu conduces his own thoughts and stories and later states, ” there is nothing to fear from someone who shouts” (140). Achebe’s message is that fear is only developed though silence of feelings and words. The danger of silence is the words and emotions are neither told nor shared, so a person’s weakness is unknown until expressed.
-While talking about the Christians and how the gods fight their own battles, on man states, “When a man blasphemes, what do we do? Do we go and stop his mouth? No. We put our fingers into our ears to stop us hearing. This is a wise action.” Okonkwo chimes in and states, “If a man comes into my hut, what do I do? Do I shut my eyes? No. I take a stick and break his head. That is what a man does” (158). Okonkwo wants to silence anyone who talks nonsense or disagrees in his actions. Society says that if a person hears or sees something irritating, then he or she should tune it out. Okonkwo displays that silence can be used as a weapon of offense and defense.
-When Okonkwo and the other detainees return from the prison, the narrator describes the scene: “they walked silently…the village was astir in a silent, suppressed way” (199). Achebe delineates the discontent of the Africans through their silent, and to a point, negative emotions. Although the prisoners returned from the prison, Achebe tries to show that a transition between cultures caused high tensions too precarious to be expressed.
-The relationship between Okonkwo and his father, Unoka, is stated in the very start of the novel when the narrator describes Okonkwo’s thoughts about his father. “He had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had no patience with his father” (4). Okonkwo becomes very critical about his father and decides to go a different route. The reader sees how Okonkwo wants to be everything his father was not; the animosity that Okonkwo has towards his father’s actions represents the tragedy of a son’s disappointment in his father and his want to break away from any father/son bonds.
-As Okonkwo, Ikemefuna, and Nwoye are preparing yams for the week of peace, the narrator states, “Sometimes Okonkwo gave them a few yams each to prepare. But he always found fault with their effort, and he said so with much threatening. ‘Do you think you are cutting up yams for cooking?’ he asked Nwoye. ‘If you put another yam of this size, I shall break your jaw. You think you are still a child. I began to farm at your age. I will not have a son who cannot hold up his head in the gathering of the clan. I would sooner strangle him with my own hands’” (32-33). This shows Okonkwo’s threatening manner with his sons. Okonkwo believes that it is best to raise a son through violence, anger, and authority in order to make him into a great man. His lack of kindness and compassion, just like any father would find out, leads to the son’s disrespect and betrayal to the father and the family.
-As Ikemefuna is gradually introduced into the village, he produces a shift in Nwoye’s action and attitude. His father notices such a change, which the narrator describes, “Okonkwo was inwardly pleased with his son’s development, and he knew it was due to Ikemefuna. He wanted Nwoye to grow into a tough man capable of running his father’s household when he was dead and gone to join his ancestors” (52). The gap between a father and a son is filled, in this situation, when the son turns into what the father wants. However, as the reader later sees, Nwoye’s progression towards a strong masculine dignitary (much like his father) is shattered because his only influence was Ikemefuna, who later dies. This represents Achebe’s belief about a man transforming for the sake of another man, that it is not effective and is truncated due to the lack of self-desire to improve.
-When Okonkwo is exiled from his village and required to leave for seven year, he flees and falls into a state of despair. Uchendu criticizes him and says, “It’s true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut” (134). Achebe comments that raising a child is left in the hands of the father, but the sphere of emotions revolves around the mother. The father attempts to pass on skills and knowledge, but lacks in sharing sentiment; that is why Nwoye resorts to be near his mother, he feels his place is compassion rather than power.
-After Okonkwo was told about how Nwoye was seen accompanying the missionaries, the narrator begins stating “[Nwoye] went into the Obi and saluted his father, but he did not answer. Nwoye turned around to walk into the inner compound when his father, suddenly overcome with fury, sprung to his feet and gripped his by the neck.
‘Where have you been…answer me…before I kill you’ he hit him with two or three savage blows but then left hold of Nwoye, who walked away and never returned” (152). Okonkwo immediately concluded that Nwoye betrayed their culture only because he was seen with the white missionaries. Okonkwo has much pride in himself and his culture, but he lacks patience and compassion. Achebe ultimately displays the consequence that when a father mistreats his son, there will be a large repercussion when the son loses all trust and respect for the father.
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