Quotations and quote are sentences and phrases that represent the central theme or idea of the literary work. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart has quotes that represent his main ideas about African culture and colonialism. Some of the famous quotes of the novel have been analyzed below.
Quotations in Things Fall Apart
“A proud heart can survive general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.”
Unoka, Okonkwo’s father asks Okonkwo not to be prideful. He tells him that if he survives a general failure such as the harvest, it means that such failures will not prick the ego of a person. Therefore, he should be brave and manly and should not fail personally. It is because when a man fails alone, it becomes painful and bitter for him to survive.
“But he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors that he was in error. And so people said he had no respect for the gods of the clan. His enemies said that his good fortune had gone to his head.”
The writer explains Okonkwo’s nature is often misunderstood by the people because he doesn’t speak. He accepts his mistake before the priest, he repents it. However, outwardly, his pride does not allow him to show his true nature to everyone. Therefore, people often talk against him, and according to the priest, Okonkwo may lose his respect in the tribe he doesn’t confess his mistakes in public.
“No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man.”
This is the tradition of the clan of Okonkwo that a man is recognized through his nature he displays at home by being superior. If a person is rich, but he does not rule over his women and children ruthlessly, he is not considered a man. He is somewhat considered a coward. These lines are important as they show the character of Okonkwo.
“When did you become a shivering old woman,’ Okonkwo asked himself, ‘you, who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed.’”
Okonkwo speaks these words feeling guilty after killing his adopted son Ikemefuna. This is his self-reflection that he, as a warrior, has killed five men and has never felt remorse. Now that he is feeling shame and guilt, he chides himself that he is becoming a woman. This is his attempt to reassure himself while he expresses hatred over his weakness.
“After such treatment it would think twice before coming again, unless it was one of the stubborn ones who returned, carrying the stamp of their mutilation–a missing finger or perhaps a dark line where the medicine man’s razor had cut them.”
This line sheds light the importance of rituals in the African villages. When Ekwefi, the wife of Okonkwo has failed to keep the child after birth, a medicine man comes and states that this child must be mutilated to stop his arrival again. This is a ritual to save the life of the woman. After this, Ekwefi gives birth to Enzima who lives to defy this ritual.
“‘Beware Okonkwo!’ she warned. ‘Beware of exchanging words with Agbala. Does a man speak when a god speaks? Beware!.”
These lines occur in the eleventh chapter where the priestess chastises Okonkwo, the warrior. She warns him about being disrespectful to gods, specifically the goddess of Agbala. She means that Okonkwo should not speak against gods, or else it would be considered blasphemy. In other words, it says that gods are worthy of respect, and Okonkwo must show this respect by keeping his quiet.
“It was like beginning life anew without the vigor and enthusiasm of youth, like learning to become left-handed in old age.”
The narrator expresses the plight of Okonkwo after he is exiled. He has to start a new life in the new place. Therefore, it seems that there is a new beginning for them. It is the same as if he is learning to use his left hand in his old age when he is a right-handed throughout his life.
“We have heard stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas, but no one thought the stories were true.”
Obierika speaks these words after Okonkwo tells him about the Oracle’s warning. He admits that there are stories about white men with powerful guns and alcohol. He tells about the stories in which white men take the black people away as slaves. However, he says that they do not believe that those stories were accurate at that time.
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”
Okonkwo expresses these words of disappointment to Obierika when he sees that everyone has turned against each other. He blames white men for the change who have arrived in the African continent to spread their religion. However, Africans have proved unwise when they have allowed white people. The other white men have divided them and taken over them.
“Okonkwo stood looking at the dead man. He knew that Umuofia would not go to war. He knew because they had let the other messengers escape. They had broken into tumult instead of action. He discerned fright in that tumult. He heard voices asking: ‘Why did he do it?”
These lines occur in the last chapter where Okonkwo has killed one of the European messengers, and the others fled away with the help people from the tribe. He knows that the Umuofia would not follow him and go to war against the English. Eventually, old Okonkwo is completely broken in spirit and feels extremely guilty as he begins to hear voices in his head.