Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart Traditions and Customs Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
“It was only this morning,” said Obierika, “that Okonkwo and I were talking about Abame and Aninta, where titled men climb trees and pound foo-foo for their wives.”
“All their customs are upside-down. They do not decide bride-price as we do, with sticks. They haggle and bargain as if they were buying a goat or a cow in the market.”
“That is very bad,” said Obierika’s eldest brother. “But what is good in one place is bad in another place. In Umunso they do not bargain at all, not even with broomsticks. The suitor just goes on bringing bags of cowries until his in-laws tell him to stop. It is a bad custom because it always lead to a quarrel.”
“The world is large,” said Okonkwo. “I have even heard that in some tribes a man’s children belong to his wife and her family.”
“That cannot be,” said Machi. “You might as well say that the woman lies on top of the man when they are making the children.” (8.84-88)
The Umuofia men criticize other tribes’ customs as unsophisticated or “upside-down.” Like many people, the Umuofia think their ways are the best and others are ignorant.
It is customary to understand the phrase “after the midday meal” as really “in the evening, when the sun’s heat has softened.” Only a member of the Igbo would understand this discrepancy between word and meaning.
“Uzowulu’s body, I salute you,” he said. Spirits always addressed humans as “bodies.” (10.17)
Because it is customary to believe the egwugwu are godly – more spiritual and less fleshly than men – it makes sense for the egwugwu to address humans as “bodies,” mere vessels for the all-important spirit.
“I hope our in-laws will bring many pots of wine. Although they come from a village that is known for being closefisted, they ought to know that Akueke is the bride for a king.”
“They dare not bring fewer than thirty pots,” said Okonkwo. ‘I shall tell them my mind of they do.”…
Very soon after, the in-laws began to arrive. Young men and boys in single file, each carrying a pot of wine, came first .Obierika’s relatives counted the pots as they came. Twenty, twenty-five. There was a long break, and the hosts looked at each other as if to say, “I told you.” Then more pots came. Thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five. The hosts nodded in approval and seemed to say, “Now they are behaving like men.”
This marriage ritual shows that it is customary for the bride-price to be paid in pots of palm-wine. Providing many pots of wine is a show of respect, and the greater the number of pots, the more highly the groom’s family values the bride.