Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart Chapter Eighteen Quotes
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Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Perhaps it never did happen. That was the way the clan at first looked at it. No one had actually seen the man do it. The story had a risen among the Christians themselves. (18.18)
The Umuofia doubt the truth of a story, a rumor. They do not believe the truth of something told by the Christians.
“It is not our custom to fight for our gods,” said one of them. “Let us not presume to do so now. If a man kills the sacred python in the secrecy of his hut, the matter lies between him and the god. We did not see it. If we put ourselves between the god and his victim we may receive blows intender for the offender. When a man blasphemes, what do we do? Do we go and stop his mouth? No. We put our fingers into our ears to stop us hearing. That is a wise action.”
“Let us not reason like cowards,” said Okonkwo. “If a man comes into my hut and defecates on the floor, what do I do? Do I shut my eyes? No! I take a stick and break his head. That is what a man does. These people are daily pouring filth over us, and Okeke says we should pretend not to see.” Okonkwo made a sound full of disgust. This was a womanly clan, he thought. Such a thing could never happen in his fatherland, Umuofia. (18.21-22)
While one clansman advises passivity, Okonkwo wants to exercise his will and force the Christians out of Umuofia. He has always been a man to act and attempt to change his stars. While other men are content to look away while Fate “defecates on the floor,” Okonkwo would rather “take a stick and break [its] head.”
He [an osu] was a person dedicated to a god, a thing set apart – a taboo forever, and his children after him. He could neither marry nor be married by the free-born. He was in fact an outcast, living in a special area of the village, close to the Great Shrine. Wherever he went he carried with him the mark of his forbidden caste – long, tangled and dirty hair. A razor was taboo to him. An osu could not attend an assembly of the free-born, and they, in turn, could not shelter under his roof. He could not take any of the four titles of the clan, and when he died he was buried by his kind in the Evil Forest. How could such a man be a follower of Christ? (18.12)
Here, we get a traditional description of an osu – an outcast whose very existence offends the villagers. The osu by custom must wear a mark of their lowly status – long, tangled hair – in order to distinguish them from the community at large. This one marker is all that really sets them apart. The arrival of the Christians, however, throws the social order out of whack by insisting that the osu can free themselves from being outcasts by joining the new religion and shaving their hair.