Things Fall Apart
Man and the Natural World Quotes Page 5
How we cite our quotes:
At last the rain came. It was sudden tremendous. For two or three moons the sun had been gathering strength till it seemed to breathe a breath of fire on the earth. All the grass had long been scorched brown, and the sands felt like live coals to the feet. Evergreen trees wore a dusty coat of brown. The birds were silenced in the forests, and the world lay panting under the live, vibrating heat. And then came the clap of thunder. It was an angry, metallic and thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season. A mighty wind arose and filled the air with dust. Palm trees swayed as the wind combed their leaves into flying crests like strange and fantastic coiffure.
When the rain finally came, it was in large, solid drops of frozen water which the people called “the nuts of the water of heaven.” They were hard and painful on the body as they fell, yet young people ran about happily picking up the cold nuts and throwing them into their mouths to melt.
The earth quickly came to life and the birds in the forest fluttered around and chirped merrily. A vague scent of life and green vegetation was diffused in the air. As the rain began to fall more soberly and in smaller liquid drops, children sought for shelter, and all were happy, refreshed and thankful. (14.4-6)
The Umuofia people are at the mercy of nature; they depend on the timely arrival of the rains for their crops. Here, the earth is characterized as an entity separate from the sky. The earth, too, depends on the sky’s providence to renew her life every rainy season.
But there was a young lad who had been captivated. His name was Nwoye, Okonkwo’s first son. It was not the mad logic of the Trinity that captivated him. He did not understand it. It was the poetry of the new religion, something felt in the marrow. The hymn about brothers who sat in darkness and in fear seemed to answer a vague and persistent question that haunted his young soul – the question of the twins crying in the bush and the question of Ikemefuna who was killed. He felt a relief within as the hymn poured into his parched soul. The words of the hymn were like the drops of frozen rain melting on the dry palate of the panting earth. (16.24)
Nwoye sees the missionaries’ hymn as such a source of relief that he is compared to the thirsty earth drinking in rain. This comparison is especially appropriate since children throughout the novel are particularly affiliated with the earth, while rain (like the hymn) is associated with the heavens (or sky). For Nwoye, Christianity will prove to be his new wellspring, a means of rebirth, just as seasonal rains renew the floral life of the earth.
Every clan and village had its “evil forest.” In it were buried all those who died of the really evil diseases, like leprosy and smallpox. It was also the dumping ground for the potent fetishes of great medicine men when they died. An “evil forest” was, therefore, alive with sinister forces and powers of darkness. It was such a forest that the rulers of Mbanta gave to the missionaries. They did not really want them in the clan, and so they made them that offer which nobody in his right senses would accept. (17.3)
This “evil forest” represents the unknown (and potentially evil) side of nature – the wilderness, an untamed place often hostile to men.