Ibo Word of the Day: iyi-uwa

Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a novel in which the author writes about his own people to us. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Things Fall Apart and learning about the stories, customs and people of Nigeria. I found it interesting, as mentioned in lecture, that by the end of the novel the narrative voice suddenly transitions to that of the District Commissioner, who is an outsider and does not understand the Africans. Thus, in the story told from his perspective, Okonkwo becomes “this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself” where all of Okonkwo’s accomplishments as a great wrestler, warrior and successful farmer and the shame and hardship he’s gone through with seven years of exile would be wiped out, same with the fascinating tribal ceremonies, stories and beliefs. Thankfully Achebe has already written about these things or we’d miss out on so much if we were to read the white man’s story. I find this satirical, tragic yet true, that Okonkwo’s life should be reduced to a “reasonable paragraph” by the white man’s ignorance. Through this last bit of the novel, I can also see Achebe’s underlying intention in bringing out African voices. Fanon would be pleased with this.
Another thing I found fascinating was the gender roles. Okonkwo constantly wishes that Ezinma had been a boy because she has the “spirit”. This reminds me of Eliot’s Mr. Tulliver who sees the cleverness in Maggie being bad for her because she’s a girl. Okonkwo also becomes extremely ashamed of his eldest son Nwoye whom he thought was not manly enough and because he betrays his people. I see this with Tom in Mill on the Floss, though he can be masculine and firm and he does not betray his family, his intelligence was shallow and could not match Maggie. One thing that I’m slightly puzzled about was the night when Ezinma got carried by Chielo the priestess all the way to the cave. At the time Ekwefi and Okonkwo made such a fuss about it, being worried about Ezinma, but we never find out what happened in the cave. Maybe what happens in the cave is not known because the spirit of Agbala does not allow it to be told.

1 Thought.

  1. Ah, I hadn’t made the connection with Maggie and Tom, but that’s interesting. At least, in Achebe’s text, Ezinma being more like a boy in some respects does not get her into trouble in the story; it seem to be only Okonkwo who thinks that given her character, she should have been a boy.

    I, too, am puzzled by that section of the text with Ezinma and Chielo. It is quite a long episode, and it’s during this section that the narrator spends most time in the “head” of Ekwefi rather than a male character. But honestly, I’m not sure what this section is doing in a larger sense in the story. Clearly it’s relating something about the beliefs and religious practices of the people, but I can’t figure out if it’s doing anything else. I’m curious to hear what others think!

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