Things Fall Apart
Fate and Free Will Quotes Page 4
How we cite our quotes:
Why, he cried in his heart, should he, Okonkwo, of all people, be cursed with such a son. He saw clearly in it the finger of his personal god or chi. For how else could he explain his great misfortune and exile and now his despicable son’s behavior? Now that he had time to think of it, his son’s crime stood out in its stark enormity. To abandon the gods of one’s father and go about with a lot of effeminate men clucking like old hens was the very depth of abomination. Suppose when he died all his male children decided to follow Nwoye’s steps and abandon their ancestors? Okonkwo felt a cold shudder run through him at the terrible prospect, like the prospect of annihilation. (17.25)
In a moment of despair, Okonkwo sees one possible road fate could take him down, despite all his efforts to raise Nwoye correctly. He sees, rather prophetically, the extinction of his entire family line.
“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 [Okonkwo] knew that he had lost his place among the nine masked spirits who administered justice in the clan. He had lost the chance to lead his warlike clan against the new religion, which, he was told, had gained ground. He had lost the years in which he might have taken the highest titles in the land. But some of these losses were not irreparable. He was determined that his return should be marked by his people. He would return with a flourish, and regain the seven wasted years. (20.2)
It seems that fate has decreed that Okonkwo would inadvertently shoot off a gun and accidentally kill someone; it has also decreed that he must spend seven years in exile while his prime years go by, wasted. But Okonkwo is determined to fight fate to the end and win back what was lost.