Things Fall Apart
Man and the Natural World Quotes Page 3
How we cite our quotes:
“Locusts are descending,” was joyfully chanted everywhere, and men, women and children left their work or their play and ran into the open to see the unfamiliar sight. The locusts had not come for many, many years, and only the old people had seen them before.
Everyone was now about, talking excitedly and praying that the locusts should camp in Umuofia for the night. For although locusts had not visited Umuofia for many years, everybody knew by instinct that they were very good to eat. And at last the locusts did descend. They settled on every tree and on every blade of grass; they settled on the roofs and covered the bare ground. Mighty tree branches broke away under them, and the whole country became the brown-earth color of the vast, hungry swarm.
Many people went out with baskets trying to catch them, but the elders counseled patience till nightfall. And they were right. The locusts settled in the bushes for the night and their wings became wet with dew. Then all Umuofia turned out in spite of the cold harmattan, and everyone filled his bags and pots with locusts. The next morning they were roasted in clay pots and then spread in the sun until they became dry and brittle. And for many days this rare food was eaten with solid palm-oil. (7.10-13)
The Umuofia capitalize on natural phenomenon, such as this locust plague. They live off what nature provides them with and don’t shun any of the gifts nature offers.
The footway had now become a narrow line in the heart of the forest. The short trees and sparse undergrowth which surrounded the men’s village began to give way to giant trees and climbers which perhaps had stood from the beginning of things, untouched by the ax and the bush-fire. The sun breaking through their leaves and branches threw a pattern of light and shade on the sandy footway. (7.23)
Achebe describes the forest in these terms to highlight the difference between the civilized world of the village and the wilderness of untamed nature. It also sets an ominous mood that foreshadows Ikemefuna’s death. The description of the “giant trees” as fossils of the “beginning of things” refers to the primeval nature of the wilderness which has changed only minimally over time and has barely registered the coming of man.
The men in the obi had already begun to drink the palm-wine which Akueke’s suitor had brought. It was a very good wine and powerful, for in spite of the palm fruit hung across the mouth of the pot to restrain the lively liquor, white foam rose and spilled over.
“That wine is the work of a good tapper,” said Okonkwo.
The young suitor, whose name was Ibe, smiled broadly and said to his father: “Do you heart that?” He then said to the others: “He will never admit that I am a good tapper.”
“He tapped three of my best palm trees to death,” said his father, Ukebgu. (8.70-73)
In this scene, the men condemn the killing of trees for wine while simultaneously enjoying that same wine. The earth here acts as both provider and victim of men.