Things Fall Apart
Respect and Reputation Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavily in debt. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him? Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father. Okonkwo was clearly cut out for great things. He was still young but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages. He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife. To crown it all he had taken two titles and had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars. And so although Okonkwo was still young, he was already one of the greatest men of his time. Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. (1.16)
Reputation in Okonkwo’s clan isn’t inherited. Each man earns his own reputation – good or bad – based on his own behavior and actions. Even though Okonkwo has the ability to earn respect like every other man, he still acts as if he’s somehow tarnished by his relationship with his father. Much of his behavior is motivated by a desire to separate himself from his father’s reputation.
Umuofia was feared by all its neighbors. It was powerful in war and in magic, and its priests and medicine men were feared in all the surrounding country. Its most potent war medicine was as old as the clan itself…
And so the neighboring clans who naturally knew of these things feared Umuofia, and would not go to war against it without first trying a peaceful settlement. (2.8-9)
One way a tribe gains respect is to boast powerful magic in the form of a mysterious medicinal figure. This intimidates other tribes from warring with Umuofia and leads them to attempt peace treaties before declaring war. Thus a fearful reputation serves an important purpose for Umuofia.
Okonkwo’s prosperity was visible in his household. He had a large compound enclosed by a thick wall of red earth. His own hut, or obi, stood immediately behind the only gate in the red walls. Each of his wives had her own hut, which together formed a half moon behind the obi. The barn was built against one end of the red walls, and long stacks of yam stood out prosperously in it. At the opposite end of the compound was a shed for the goats, and each wife built a small attachment to her hut for the hens. Near the barn was a small house, the “medicine house” or shrine where Okonkwo kept the wooden symbols of his personal god and of his ancestral spirits. He worshipped them with sacrifices of kola nut, food and palm-wine, and offered prayers to them on behalf of himself, his three wives and eight children. (2.14)
It is easy to see why Okonkwo is respected. His hard work has earned material wealth for his family out of nothing. He has a large living compound, several wives, and many children.