Things Fall Apart
Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
During the planting season Okonkwo worked daily on his farms from cock-crow until the chickens went to roost. (2.13)
Okonkwo’s hard labor out in the fields suggests the Umuofia survive by agriculture. They depend on the generosity of the earth for their survival.
The year that Okonkwo took eight hundred seed-yams from Nwakibie was the worst year in living memory. Nothing happened at its proper time; it was either too early or too late. It seemed as if the world had gone mad. The first rains were late, and, when they came, lasted only a brief moment. The blazing sun returned, more fierce than it had ever been known, and scorched all the green that had appeared with the rains. The earth burned like hot coals and roasted all the yams that had been sown. Like all good farmers, Okonkwo had began to sow with the first rains. He had sown four hundred seeds when the rains dried up and the heat returned. He watched the sky all day for signs of rain clouds and lay awake all night. In the morning he went back to his farm and saw the withering tendrils. He had tried to protect them from the smoldering earth by making rings of thick sisal leaves around them. But by the end of the day the sisal rings were burned dry and gray. He changed them every day, and prayed that the rain might fall in the night. But the drought continued for eight market weeks and the yams were killed…
Okonkwo planted what was left of his seed-yams when the rains finally returned. He had one consolation. The yams he had sown before the drought were his own, the harvest of the previous. He still had the eight hundred from Nwakibie and the four hundred from his father’s friend. So he would make a fresh start.
But the year had gone mad. Rain fell as it had never fallen before. For days and nights together it poured down in violent torrents, and washed away the yam heaps. Trees were uprooted and deep gorges appeared everywhere. Then the rain became less violent. But it went from day to day without a pause. The spell of sunshine which always came in the middle of the wet season did not appear. The yams put on luxuriant green leaves, but every farmer knew that without sunshine the tubers would not grow.
That year the harvest was sad, like a funeral, and many farmers wept as they dug up the miserable and rotting yams. One man tied his cloth to a tree branch and hanged himself. (3.29-33)
Okonkwo’s destiny, and indeed the future of the people of Umuofia, is decided by the vicissitudes of nature. Their crops depend on the rain and sun for survival. The fact that drought, and then flooding, kills the yam crop means a year of going hungry and maybe starvation.
Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, who was two years younger, because quite inseparable from him [Ikemefuna] because he seemed to know everything. He could fashion out flutes from bamboo stems and even from the elephant grass. He knew the names of all the birds and could set clever traps for the little bush rodents. And he knew which tress made the strongest bows. (4.6)
Ikemefuna is familiar with all the blessings of the earth, knowledgeable about how to make delightful crafts from all sorts of raw foliage and also how to find food in the wild. By tying Ikemefuna to the earth, Achebe clearly depicts Okonkwo’s murder of Ikemefuna as a direct crime against the earth.