“I am because we are; we are because I am.”  The relationship between the individual and his community is complex.  In Things Fall Apart, how does the individual gain strength from society? ...

“I am because we are; we are because I am.”  The relationship between the individual and his community is complex.  In Things Fall Apart, how does the individual gain strength from society?  How does society gain strength from the individual? Discuss the quote in context of you response.  Offer at least two examples for each perspective offered.

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Hello! You asked about the relationship between the individual and his community in 'Things Fall Apart.' In the Umuofia clan, Okwonko is a warrior whose wealth and feats of courage have earned him respect and honor. I will separate your questions into two parts with examples for each, as requested:

1)How does the individual gain strength from society?

"I am because we are" is a quote which clearly spells out the dependence of the individual on his society.

a)When the wife of Ogbuefi Udo, an Umuofia woman, is murdered by a man from the Mbaino clan, all of Umuofia gather to discuss what will be done to avenge the killing of the woman. The grieving husband sits among the men, and he waits patiently for the decision. It is to be either war or the offer of a young man and a virgin for compensation. In this situation, Mbaino capitulates immediately: it helps if your clan is well known for fierce warriors and excellent magic and Umuofia certainly has that reputation. They send the warrior Okwonko as 'the proud and imperious emissary of war.' Here, the individual relies on the formidable reputation of his clan to avenge the death of his wife.

b)Justice within the clan is administered by the egwegwu. The egwugwu is made up of nine men who impersonate the ancestral spirits of the clan. Each of the nine egwugwu represents one of the nine villages in the clan. In the first dispute, Uzowulu claims that his wife, Mgbafo's three brothers beat him up and took Mgbafo and their children away. When he demands Mgbafo's bride-price back, the brothers refuse. One of Mgbafo's brothers tell the egwugwu that Uzowulu is a ferocious abuser and that he once beat their sister so badly that she miscarries. The egwugwu decide that Uzowulu should bring a pot of wine to his in-laws and beg for his wife to return to him. Here, Mgbafo relies on her brothers to speak for her and the egwugwu to pursue justice on her behalf.

2)How does society gain strength from the individual?

'We are because I am' tells of the clan's reliance on the individual for its prosperity and its protection. in Umuofia, society is strengthened when each individual atones properly for his sins.

a)Umuofia decrees the exile of Okwonko when he accidentally kills Ogbuefi Ezeudu's sixteen year old son during Ezeudu's funeral. Each individual's actions affect a clan for better or for worse and judgment is necessary to preserve the integrity and stability of a clan.

Guns fired the last salute and the cannon rent the sky. And then from the centre of the delirious fury came a cry of agony and shouts of horror...Okwonko's gun had exploded and a piece of iron had pierced the boy's heart.

All Umuofia turn out to burn Okwonko's barn, set fire to his houses and kill his animals in order to cleanse Umuofia of this sin against the earth goddess. Without the cleansing of this individual sin, Umuofia believes that the whole clan would suffer the earth goddess' wrath.

b)Ikemefuna is one individual who strengthens the fabric of Umuofian society. During his stay with Okwonko, he fascinates Nwoye, Okwonko's son, and they become inseparable. Ikemefuna knows how to 'set clever traps for the little bush rodents' and how to fashion flutes out of bamboo stems and elephant grass. Ikemefuna also inspires a more masculine spirit in Nwoye and this pleases Okwonko. Here, you can see society gaining strength from the ministrations of one individual, Ikemefuna.

Thanks for the question! Hope this helps.

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gabe1e | eNotes Newbie

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