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Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Traditions and Customs Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

One day a neighbor called Okoye came in to see him...He immediately rose and shook hands with Okoye, who then unrolled the goatskin which he carried under his arm, and sat down. Unoka went into an inner room and soon returned with a small wooden disc containing a kola nut, some alligator pepper and a lump of white chalk.

“I have kola,” he announced when he sat down, and passed the disc over to his guest.

“Thank you. He who brings kola brings life. But I think you ought to break it,” replied Okoye, passing back the disc.

“No, it is for you, I think,” and they argued like this for a few moments before Unoka accepted the honor of breaking the kola. Okoye, meanwhile, took the lump of chalk, drew some lines on the floor, and then painted his big toe.

As he broke the kola, Unoka prayed to their ancestors for life and health, and for protection against their enemies. When they had eaten they talked about many things: about the heavy rains which were drowning the yams, about the next ancestral feast and about the impending war with the village of Mbaino. (1.7-10)

There is a great deal of tradition surrounding the kola nut. It seems to be a key aspect of being a welcoming host. The kola nut tradition is yet another way of communicating respect.

Quote #2

Having spoken plainly so far, Okoye said the next half a dozen sentences in proverbs. Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten. Okoye was a great talker and he spoke for a long time, skirting round the subject and then hitting it finally. (1.14)

One custom used to show politeness and sophistication is to talk learnedly in pithy proverbs and to approach one’s intended topic only slowly and discreetly.

Quote #3

Okonkwo had just blown out the palm-oil lamp and stretched himself on his bamboo bed when he heard the ogene of the town crier piercing the still night air. Gome, gome gome, gome, boomed the hollow metal. Then the crier gave his message, and at the end of it beat his instrument again. (2.1)

From Okonkwo’s unalarmed reaction, we can assume that the ogene drum is used regularly to convey messages from distant villages. This tradition gives the messages a sort of exotic and mysterious quality, as well as simultaneously letting the whole village know that there is news.

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