Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart Ezinma Quotes
[In Ekwefi’s story] “The birds gathered round to eat what was left and to peck at the bones he had thrown all about the floor. Some of them were too angry to eat. They chose to fly home on an empty stomach. But before they left each took back the feather he had lent to Tortoise. And there he stood in his hard shell full of food and wine but without any wings to fly home. He asked the birds to take a message for his wife, but they all refused. In the end Parrot, who had felt more angry than the others; suddenly changed his mind and agreed to take the message.
‘Tell my wife,’ said Tortoise, ‘to bring out all the soft things in my house and cover and compound with them so that I can jump down from the sky without very great danger.’
Parrot promised to deliver the message, and then flew away. But when he reached Tortoise’s house he told his wife to bring out all the hard things in the house. And so she brought out her husband’s hoes, machetes, spears, guns and even his cannon. Tortoise looked down from the sky and saw his wife bringing things out, but it was too far to see what they were. When all seemed ready he let himself go. He fell and fell and fell until he began to fear that he would never stop falling. And then like the sound of his cannon he crashed on the compound.”
“Did he die?” asked Ezinma.
“No,” replied Ekwefi. “His shell broke into pieces. But there was a great medicine man in the neighborhood. Tortoise’s wife sent for him and he gathered all the bits of shell and stuck them together. That is why Tortoise’s shell is not smooth.” (11.20-24)
The laws of the earth goddess are illustrated even in folktales. Here, Tortoise has sinned by not allowing his fellow creatures to partake of the food that the earth offered for all her children. As punishment, one of his brothers turns against him and the earth herself breaks his shell.
“Ekwefi,” she said, “is it true that when people are grown up, fire does not burn them?” Ezinma, unlike most children, called her mother by her name. (5.16)
Ezinma is an anomaly in the Igbo family unit because she does not address her mother with a term of respect – like mother – but by her given name, as if they are equals.
And after a pause she said: “Can I bring your chair for you?”
“No, that is a boy’s job.” Okonkwo was specially fond of Ezinma. (5.59-60)
Although Ezinma is probably Okonkwo’s favorite child, he adheres very strictly to the norms of male and female action ascribed by Igbo culture. He does not allow Ezinma to do something as simple as carrying a chair to the festival for him because he considers it a boy’s task. Sadly, Okonkwo’s strict following of gender roles prevents him from showing his affection for his daughter.