Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart Chapter Fourteen Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Uchendu]: “Is it right that you, Okonkwo, should bring to your mother a heavy face and refuse to be comforted? Be careful or you may displease the dead. Your duty is to comfort your wives and children and take them back to your fatherland after seven years. But if you allow sorrow to weigh you down and kill you, they will all die in exile.” (14.32)
Uchendu warns Okonkwo of willfully displeasing the dead. As spirits, they seem to have some power to influence fate and could, if insulted, bring about destruction on a wide, generational scale.
At last the rain came. It was sudden tremendous. For two or three moons the sun had been gathering strength till it seemed to breathe a breath of fire on the earth. All the grass had long been scorched brown, and the sands felt like live coals to the feet. Evergreen trees wore a dusty coat of brown. The birds were silenced in the forests, and the world lay panting under the live, vibrating heat. And then came the clap of thunder. It was an angry, metallic and thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season. A mighty wind arose and filled the air with dust. Palm trees swayed as the wind combed their leaves into flying crests like strange and fantastic coiffure.
When the rain finally came, it was in large, solid drops of frozen water which the people called “the nuts of the water of heaven.” They were hard and painful on the body as they fell, yet young people ran about happily picking up the cold nuts and throwing them into their mouths to melt.
The earth quickly came to life and the birds in the forest fluttered around and chirped merrily. A vague scent of life and green vegetation was diffused in the air. As the rain began to fall more soberly and in smaller liquid drops, children sought for shelter, and all were happy, refreshed and thankful. (14.4-6)
The Umuofia people are at the mercy of nature; they depend on the timely arrival of the rains for their crops. Here, the earth is characterized as an entity separate from the sky. The earth, too, depends on the sky’s providence to renew her life every rainy season.
They sat in a big circle on the ground and the bride sat in the center with a hen in her right hand. Uchendu sat by her, holding the ancestral staff of the family. All the other men stood outside the circle, watching. Their wives watched also. It was evening and the sun was setting.
Uchendu’s eldest daughter, Njide, asked the questions.
“Remember that if you do not answer truthfully you will suffer or even die at childbirth, she began. How many men have lain with you since my brother first expressed the desire to marry you?”
“None,” she answered simply.
“Answer truthfully,” urged the other women.
“None?” asked Njide.
“None,” she answered.
“Swear on this staff of my fathers,” said Uchendu.
“I swear,” said the bride.
Uchendu took the hen from her, slit its throat with a sharp knife and allowed some of the blood to fall on his ancestral staff.
From that day Anikwu took the young bride to his hut and she became his wife. The daughters of the family did not return to their homes immediately but spent two or three days with their kinsmen. (14.12-22)
The public confession ceremony for the bride shows how deeply the Umuofia value truth and purity in its women. The implication here is that Anikwu would not value his wife as much had she not been virgin upon their marriage. The sacrifice of a hen somehow seems to seal the bride’s words as a vow and consecrate the marriage.