Things fall Apart: Top Ten Quotations

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  1. “When a man is at peace with his gods and ancestors, his harvest will be good or bad according to the strength of his arm ” (Ch. 3, p. 17). The priestess of the Oracle explains to Unoka why his crops are not good; he has not offended the gods--he is lazy.
  2. “Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching” (Ch. 3, p. 22). An Igbo proverb is provided by the rich man, Nwakibie, to explain why he is not generous the way he used to be. Times have changed, and young men are soft and do not deserve to be helped. However, he makes an exception for Okonkwo and gives him seed-yams to start his farm.
  3. “Looking at a king’s mouth, one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breast” (Ch. 4. p. 26).An old man says this proverb of Okonkwo’s pride, once he becomes rich and successful, having risen out of poverty, trying to forget his past.
  4. We live in peace with our fellows to honor our great goddess of the earth without whose blessing our crops will not grow” (Ch. 4, p. 30).Ezeani, The priest of the earth goddess, lectures Okonkwo for breaking the Week of Peace by beating his wife.
  5. “Behind them was the big and ancient silk-cotton tree which was sacred. Spirits of good children lived in that tree waiting to be born. On ordinary days young women who desired children came to sit under its shade” (Ch. 6, p. 46).This is a description of the tree on the edge of the ilo or playground area on wrestling day in the village. Every tree and element has its lore and sacred place in the nature of things.
  6. The drum sounded again and the flute blew. The egwugwu house was now a pandemonium of quavering voices. Aru oyim de de de dei! Filled the air as the spirits of the ancestors, just emerged from the earth, greeted themselves in their esoteric language” (Ch. 10, p. 88).The masked impersonators of ancestral spirits are the judges who come together to hear a court case and speak judgment. Okonkwo is one of these nine, though in his role as ancestor no one thinks of the man.
  7. “I am Evil Forest. I kill a man on the day that his life is sweetest to him” (Ch. 10, p. 93). One of the egwugwu speaks as the ancestor called Evil Forest or death and addresses a man in the court case.
  8. “The land of the living was not far removed from the domain of the ancestors. There was coming and going between them, especially at festivals and also when an old man died, because an old man was very close to the ancestors. A man’s life from birth to death was a series of transition rites which brought him nearer and nearer to his ancestors” (Ch. 13, p.  122). This is a reflection during the funeral of Ezeudu, the oldest warrior in Umuofia, whose son Okonkwo accidentally kills during the funeral.
  9. “They were talking excitedly among themselves because the white man had said he was going to live among them. They had not thought about that” (Ch. 16, p. 145). The arrival of the missionaries in Mbanta is at first not understood.  Many clan leaders had given in to their requests, because they did not believe the new religion would last.
  10. “How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? 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” (Ch. 20, p. 176). Obierika, Okonkwo’s best friend, tries to tell him why it is too late to fight the white missionaries. Their clansmen have already joined him. They are a divided people.

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