What is the purpose of storytelling in Things Fall Apart? Specifically, what are the purposes of the following stories: Vulture and Sky (ch. 7), Mosquito and Ear (ch. 9), The Snake-lizard and...

What is the purpose of storytelling in Things Fall Apart? Specifically, what are the purposes of the following stories: Vulture and Sky (ch. 7), Mosquito and Ear (ch. 9), The Snake-lizard and his Mother (ch. 9), Tortoise and the Birds (ch 11)? Are the stories meant to simply showcase Nigerian culture or do they have important metaphorical purposes?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The stories can, at most, be equated to our folklore, fables, parables and fairy tales which generally have the same purpose: to teach values and morals and warn against inappropriate and risky behaviour.

These stories also attempt to create meaning for young minds and try to explain the sometimes unexplainable. The stories are also used to entertain. In this regard, the stories strengthen the bonds between parents and their children, elders and youngsters, creating a common identity and a culture of familiarity. It is part of a rich tradition, not only in Igbo society, but in all societies, in which different versions of the same stories exist.

An example of such a story would be the one of the tooth fairy. The story is told to alleviate fear and provide comfort and, of course, give an alternative explanation of why certain things happen by romanticising it and appealing to children's love for fantasy and intrigue. This is what the stories in Things Fall Apart do. 

The story about Vulture and Sky might serve a threefold purpose: one is about the danger of careless behaviour - Vulture could have covered his long talon to prevent it cutting through the coco-yam leaves and causing a deluge. The second would be a message about forgiveness and reconciliation: Sky forgave Earth and gave water, ending the earthlings' suffering. The third purpose would be to explain weather patterns in language that a child could relate to.

Mosquito and Ear is just a nonsense story Okonkwo's mother told him probably to make him laugh and forget about the pestering mosquitoes. He himself recognised that the story was far-fetched, but fun.

The story about the Snake Lizard and his mother is a lesson about how a lack of understanding or knowledge could have tragic consequences. Snake Lizard did not understand that vegetables shrunk when cooked, and this lack of insight lead to him killing both his mother and himself.

The Tortoise and the Birds story teaches many lessons: the dangers of arrogance, greed, blind faith, deception, manipulation and naivete. Tortoise had  gotten his comeuppance when Parrot gave his wife the wrong message. The story also explains why a tortoise-shell is not smooth and made up of conjoining shells - not very scientific, but a fair-enough and interesting explanation for a youngster keen to learn. 

teach1052 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe all the stories within Things Fall Apart are told with multiple purposes.  They teach history of the culture, they teach reasoning as to why certain customs and traditions are followed, and they serve as an education for the members of the culture.As an education, they are learning about the values of their ancestors that have carried them forward to this moment and will serve to carry them into te future if they are heeded.  Honor, family roles, foolish behavior and its consequences, how to deal with trickery, are all present.

 We in the western cultures would probably liken them to parables or fables.  These are present in every culture to preform the same tasks and teach us the same lessons.

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it's both, they are interesting to read because they give the reader insight into Nigerian culture and history, but they also have allegorical meaning that helps inform the story and teach the reader something.

fashionableb1 | Student

The purpose of story-telling in Things Fall Apart is to teach lessons, pass down a piece of history, traditions, and customs. Those stories in the western world are known as fables

porashuna | Student

it may be a characteristic of oral tradition

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Things Fall Apart

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