Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
Okonkwo was well received by his mother’s kinsmen in Mbanta. The old man who received him was his mother’s younger brother, who was now the eldest surviving member of that family. His name was Uchendu, and it was he who had received Okonkwo’s mother twenty and ten years before when she had been brought home from Umuofia to be buried with her people. Okonkwo was only a boy then and Uchendu still remembered him crying the traditional farewell: “Mother, mother, mother is going.” (14.1)
Though Uchendu has only seen Okonkwo once, he welcomes Okonkwo because he is family, no matter what kind of crime Okonkwo committed.
“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 implies that Okonkwo has a duty to honor his mother by refusing to give way to despair. As the head of his household, he also has the responsibility of setting a positive example for his wives and children. If he does not do so, that is a crime. When crimes are committed, they always impact the entire family. Just as Okonkwo’s family must share in his exile, they may also fall to death if Okonkwo sins against his mother by despairing in his motherland.
[Uchendu]: “I knew your father, Iweka. He was a great man. He had many friends here and came to see them quite often. Those were good days when a man had friends in distant clans. Your generation does not know that. You stay at home, afraid of your next-door neighbor. Even a man’s motherland is a strange to him nowadays.” (15.7)
Uchendu criticizes the younger generation for falling out of touch with their relations in distant villages. The implication is that younger men have become so self-centered that they do not have time to think about and honor their extended family, especially if they live far away.