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Things Fall Apart - Symbolism & Motifs

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Clara Sawires

on 22 November 2013

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Transcript of Things Fall Apart - Symbolism & Motifs

Things Fall Apart - Symbolism & Motifs

In his novel, "Things Fall Apart" Chinua Achebe incorporates symbols and motifs to connect foreign concepts to explain universal themes and ideas.
Chi: A personal god, who was connected to an individual’s good fortunes, or lack of.

Fire: A symbol of Okonkwo’s character- his intense and violent anger
1. “A man could not rise above
the destiny of his Chi” (131).

2. “When a man says yes, his Chi says yes also” (27).
Your chi determines your destiny and fate

An individual can influence their chi through their actions and attitude

- Okonkwo’s intense personality is difficult to understand, but the symbol of fire is one most are familiar with and helps the reader understand him more clearly.

Achebe uses this aggressive and pretentious character to symbolize the fatal flaw of pride

“He, Okonkwo, was called a roaring fire” (153)

A fire destroys everything in it’s path

“Living fire begets cold ash” (153).

Ezinma is the main bridge that connects the reader to Okonkwos compassion throughout the story and by doing so she becomes a symbol of hope.
Okonkwo often said; "she should have been a boy" (64)
Ekwifi: "swore within her that if she heard Ezinma cry she would rush into the cave to defend her against all the gods in the world" (108)
Okonkwo insults a man for contradicting him by saying; "this meeting is for men" (26)
Obierika explained that "it is against our custom...it is an abomination for a man to take his own life... a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen" (207)
Animal Imagery & Folktales

"The clan was like a lizard; if it lost its tail, it grew another,"
(Achebe 171)
-->Demonstrate morals and views on different subject matters.
-->Demonstrates Igbo traditions- an oral culture.
--> Used to interpret natural phenomena
How Tortoise Got His Bumpy Shell
Kola Nuts

The Evil Forest
"The sickness was an abomination to the earth, and so the victim could not be buried in her [The Evil Forest's] bowels"
(Achebe 18).
-->The place where anything that was regarded as a threat was disposed of.
-->Regarded as sacred land for the gods.
-->Given to the white men.

A symbol of hospitality and respect.
Can be relatable to offering your guest a drink when they visit your house.
This idea of respect and tradition contradicts the stereotypes created by the Europeans.
“He who brings kola, brings life” (6)
Breaking the kola nut is a spiritual process.
This can be relatable to the breaking of bread in the Christian Bible.

“As he broke the kola, Unoka prayed to their ancestors for life and health, and for protection against their enemies.” (6)

determine a man’s self worth.
known as the “yam economy”
Comparable to pop culture

Are present in many celebrations .
Are used to make foo-foo which is seen in many celebratory occasions.
Foo-foo can be comparable to a cake
“Yam foo-foo and vegetable soup was the chief food in the celebration”(37)

Palm Wine
·was also present in many celebratory occasions.
The more palm wine you had the more masculine you were.
“they ought to know that Akueke is the bride fit for a king”(116)
“they dare not bring fewer than thirty pots” (116)
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