What does "silk cotton" symbolize in Things Fall Apart?

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slchanmo1885 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The silk cotton tree is a sacred tree to the Ibo people. Throughout the book, the events in the village often take place under this tree. The tree is a constant, a witness to the events in the village. The wrestling match takes place under this tree, and later, when the white men come, the “iron horse” (bicycle) was tied under this tree. The bicycle is a foreign object that is attached to this sacred tree, symbolic of a foreign force attaching itself to the Ibo culture. The silk cotton tree is also present at the end of the novel, when the village gathers to meet about what to do about the white men’s presence. Egonwanne, who Okonkwo believes is a coward, sits under the tree, and Okonkwo knows that he will try to convince the village not to fight. The tree is once again a witness as Okonkwo strikes down the white messenger, sealing his fate.