Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
[Obierika]: “How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has a put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” (20.26)
Okonkwo’s family, the tribe, has fallen apart because it has crumbled from within. The family of tribal brothers has turned against one another and can no longer act as a group. Now, opposing the missionaries means opposing the tribal brothers as well.
[After the unmasking of an egwugwu]: That night the Mother of the Spirits walked the length and breadth of the clan, weeping for her murdered son. It was a terrible night. Not even the oldest man in Umuofia had ever heard such a strange and fearful sound, and it was never to be heard again. It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming – its own death. (22.10)
The Umuofia consider the egwugwu part of their family – the spirits of their great ancestors. When an egwugwu is murdered by being unmasked, the crime can be considered an extreme case of patricide – the murder of one of the great fathers of the land.
“This is a great gathering. No clan can boast of greater numbers of greater valor. But are we all here? I ask you: Are all the sons of Umuofia with us here?” A deep murmur swept through the crowd.
“They are not,” he said. “They have broken the clan and gone their several ways. We who are here this morning have remained true to our fathers, but our brothers have deserted us and joined a stranger to soil their fatherland. If we fight the stranger we shall hit our brothers and perhaps shed the blood of a clansman. But we must do it. Our fathers never dreamed of such a thing, they never killed their brothers. But a white man never came to them. So we must do what our fathers would never have done.” (24.32-33)
An elder claims that the broken family of Umuofia is the single most important reason that they should go to war, even if it means harming their own brothers who have defected to join the missionaries. It shows how far the Umuofia have fallen that they see the necessity to commit the ultimate crime – brothers must kill their own brothers in order to save the clan/family as a whole.