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Things Fall Apart

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Priya Gada

on 27 October 2014

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Transcript of Things Fall Apart

Throughout the novel we have read about the practices and traditions of the Ibo people. While following the life of Okonkwo we have learned what it means to be a member of the Ibo people in Umuofia.

Having multiple wives, strong sons, and a lot of yams is what it takes to be successful in Umuofia. To be Okonkwo's equivalent in America one would need to be successful, pretty wealthy, and have the influence of a powerful businessman or politician.
How is it that when our societies want to showcase our status/greatness our ways of doing that differs greatly?
Social Norms
How is it that gender roles in Ibo and America relate so similarly but differ as well?

Focus Question
"The relationship between the new church and the clan was complex. There was no question of killing a missionary here, for Mr. Kiaga, despite his madness, was quite harmless. As for his converts, no one could kill them without having to flee from the clan, for in spite of their worthlessness they still belonged to the clan." (Pg.116)
Spirituality & its Role in Society
By: Priya Gada, Jean Acosta, Cynthia Bissereth,
Stefano Anglada, & Daphne Lafortune

America V. Ibo
Yams and Wives vs. Money/Wealth
- More yams = Great man
“Inwardly Okonkwo knew that the boys were still too young to understand fully the difficult art of preparing seed-yams. But he thought that one could not begin too early. Yam stood for manliness, and he who could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed.” Page 24
- More wives = Great man
“There was a wealthy man in Okonkwo’s village who had three huge barns, nine wives and thirty children. His name was Nwakibie and he had taken the highest but one title which a man could take in the clan. It was for this man that Okonkwo worked to earn his first seed yams.” Page 13
- The wealthier you are, you are more well known than your counterparts simply because your wealth shows how successful you were able to become, or it may just show that you’re descended from people who were able to attain success and you were able to inherit that status.
Our Society
Ibo Culture
Spirituality & its Place in Leadership
Okonkwo's belief
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 134)
Natalie Kampen, “People don't discover gender lying under a cabbage leaf; they build it over generations.”
Teachings, beliefs, personal experience
'Man crop!' VS. 'I'm the man of the house!'
"His mothers and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women's crops, like coco-yams, beans and cassava. Yam, the king of crops, was a man's crop." (Page 17)
Yams/wives/sticks/titles VS. Jobs/cars/money
"Without looking at the man Okonkwo had said: 'This meeting is for men.' The man who had contradicted him had no titles. That was why he had called him a woman." (page 19)
Nature and its Influence on Society
Compare & Contrast
Does spirituality play an important role
in both Ibo and American societies?
Spirituality plays an important role in Ibo
society because their religion's main advocates the priestess and her god whose demands and laws are absolute were the most powerful beings in the village while the council of spirits settle disputes as a court would.
Americans like Ibo were cautious of new religions
challenging their faith. We however have been almost always hostile to new religions that join our culture.
Spirituality in the American Government has become rarer
the only important role it plays is that our leader the president is almost always Christian.
How does nature and its influence in America differ to how nature is viewed in the Ibo society?
Spiritual Rituals and their Demands
In this tribe spiritual rituals are considered absolute because of this it was a great tragedy for Okonkwo to break the week of peace something which was seen as having physical consequences against him. People in this society must be pacifists for a week or face serious consequences not only for themselves but the whole village as well.
In American society certain religions practice spiritual rituals such as fasting for Yom Kippur the main difference being that there is a spiritual consequence for not following these rituals, not a physical imminent danger to the entire country.
In the Ibo society, nature as a whole is a large part their culture and daily life. They have aspects that America does not such as the evil forest for the diseased and impure. There are some cultures that are influenced by nature within America, but not as much as Ibo culture.
...Compare & Contrast
Public abuse VS. Private abuse
"And when she returned he beat her very heavily. In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace. His first two wives ran out in great alarm pleading with him that it was the sacred week. But Okonkwo was not the man to stop beating somebody half-way through, not even for fear of a goddess." (Page 21)
Emotion shows weakness VS. Emotion shows love
"Okonkwo was specially fond of Ezinma. She looked very much like her mother, who was once the village beauty. But his fondness only showed on very rare occasions." (Page 33)
Nature and its Influence on People
In the village, Nature dictates how people are seen and their level of respect. Crops are used as a sign of wealth and respect, as well as power. In Ibo culture, people show love for nature, like their yams, but also fear, like the evil forest.
Ibo v Americans
The people of Umuofia are a strong, warrior tribe that define a successful man as rich with yams, wives, and strength. Many of the practices and traditions seem foreign, strange, and at times appalling to us being readers in 21st century America. traditions such as casting out people to an Evil Forest, domestic abuse, and many others.

What we may consider to be crazy and atrocious, would be normal to the Ibo. For Okonkwo, growing a lot of yams means you're manly, but for an average American man it would be to bring home a substantial paycheck.
When the missionaries asked for land and were given the evil forest to settle on, the elders thought they were crazy and would die soon, but just like American society, the missionaries did not believe these traditions and flourished in the evil forest.
Focus Question
We have been able to see many differences between the Ibo and our own culture throughout the course of the novel. On the surface it seems that the two cultures could not be any more different, however what happens when you dig deeper and get to the root of these actions and traditions? What can be found when looking at the source of the practices and culture of the Ibo and the Americans?
In America, nature doesn't influence the people at all. There are no evil forests and there is also no sacred crop that is worshiped. Nature can be seen as something culturally distinct between the two as it has no place in America at all.
There are many aspects of both cultures that would cause a person to simply end the discussion with the Ibo and Americans being too different that they shouldn't be in the same sentence.

However, it seems that in some examples the practices are very different while the reasons are alike.
Animal Symbolism in Cultures
The sacred python that the village worships can be seen as the Ibo equivalent of the bald eagle. Both animals are sacred and the face of their respective societies. These animals are very important to the two cultures.
Thank you!
The image of locusts in both cultures is a similarity as in America, locusts are seen as the coming of a plague, while in the village, the locusts are representatives of the coming of the missionaries, who ended up destroying what the village was and what they stood for.
Both societies still respect nature, just in different ways, with the Ibo society focusing on a more religious,spiritual way. And American society with a more ownership, scientific way.
Work Cited
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994. Print.
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