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Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Traditions and Customs Quotes Page 7

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #19

Umuofia kwenu!” he bellowed, raising his left arm and pushing the air with his open hand.

Yaa!” roared Umuofia.

Umuofia kwenu!” he bellowed again, and again and again, facing a new direction each time. And the crowd answer, “Yaa!”

There was immediate silence as though cold water had been poured on a roaring flame.

Okika sprang to his feet and also saluted his clansmen four times. Then he began to speak:

“You all know why we are here, when we ought to be building our barns or mending our huts, when we should be putting our compounds in order. My father used to say to me: ‘Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life.’ When I saw you all pouring into this meeting from all the quarters of our clan so early in the morning, I knew that something was after our life.

All our gods are weeping. Idemili is weeping. Ogwugwu is weeping, Agbala is weeping, and all the others. Our dead fathers are weeping because of the shameful sacrilege they are suffering and the abomination we have all seen with our eyes.”

This is a great gathering. No clan can boast of greater numbers of greater valor. But are we all here? I ask you: Are all the sons of Umuofia with us here?” A deep murmur swept through the crowd.

“They are not,” he said. “They have broken the clan and gone their several ways. We who are here this morning have remained true to our fathers, but our brothers have deserted us and joined a stranger to soil their fatherland. If we fight the stranger we shall hit our brothers and perhaps shed the blood of a clansman. But we must do it. Our fathers never dreamed of such a thing, they never killed their brothers. But a white man never came to them. So we must do what our fathers would never have done.” (24.25-33)

This scene combines traditional Umuofia ceremony with a totally original resolution. The speaker welcomes his fellow villagers with the traditional Umuofia greeting and praising of Umuofia’s valor. However, the purpose of the gathering is revolutionary – to declare war on their brothers. This type of behavior is unprecedented in Igbo history because villages have always been united. Such a dramatic break from tradition reveals how deeply the presence of the missionaries has affected the local culture.

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