Things Fall Apart
Language and Communication Quotes Page 14
How we cite our quotes:
Obierika, who had been gazing steadily at his friend’s dangling body, turned suddenly to the District Commissioner and said ferociously: “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog…” He could not say any more. His voice trembled and choked his words. (25.18)
Obierika is so overcome by the unfairness and tragedy of Okonkwo’s death that he cannot express it in words. Like Okonkwo when he was worked up, Obierika “choke[s] on his words.”
The story of this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading. One could almost write a whole chapter on him. Perhaps not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate. There was so much else to include, and one must be firm in cutting out details. (25.22)
The Commissioner reduces Okonkwo’s life, about which Achebe’s whole book has been written, to a paragraph. By recording what little he knows about Okonkwo as a man, he is essentially freezing Okonkwo in a limited and woefully misunderstood way. It is these words, not Okonkwo’s honor, that will be passed on to posterity. Because the Commissioner is determined to “cut out details”, Okonkwo will be remembered only as a savage.
He [the Commissioner] had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. (25.22)
The Commissioner reduces much of the story told by Achebe to a cold and biased imperialist report. Because we have followed Okonkwo’s story and seen society through his understanding eyes, we see the Igbo people more sympathetically than the power-mongering Commissioner.