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Having spoken plainly so far, Okoye said the next half a dozen sentences in proverbs. Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten. Okoye was a great talker and he spoke for a long time, skirting round the subject and then hitting it finally. (1.14)
Language is a very important part of Igbo culture and is highly stylized. Instead of just saying, “Unoka, give me my damn money back,” Okoye must steep his message in fanciful and well-known proverbs, only slowly getting to his point. Correct speech is a symbol of respectability among these people. Unoka reveals his lack of respectability by later responding by laughing and with the terse, straightforward information that Okoye won’t be getting his money back any time soon.
As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings. Okonkwo had clearly washed his hands and so he ate with kings and elders. (1.16)
This stylized proverb illustrates one of the Igbo’s highest values – personal responsibility. If a man “washes his hands” or pays off all his debts and is able to stand on his own, he may mingle with the most respected elders.
Okonkwo had just blown out the palm-oil lamp and stretched himself on his bamboo bed when he heard the ogene of the town crier piercing the still night air. Gome, gome, gome, gome, boomed the hollow metal. Then the crier gave his message, and at the end of it beat his instrument again. And this was the message. Every man of Umuofia was asked to gather at the market place tomorrow morning. (2.1)
Achebe describes musical instruments as not only having voices, but actually speaking. Here, the drums have the capacity to deliver specific messages to the entire community in one fell swoop.