Think about the role of weather in the novel. How does it work, symbolically or otherwise, in relation to important elements of the novel such as religion? Are rain and drought significant? Explore...
Think about the role of weather in the novel. How does it work, symbolically or otherwise, in relation to important elements of the novel such as religion? Are rain and drought significant? Explore the ways in which weather affects the emotional and spiritual realms of the novel as well as the physical world.
Rain and drought play significant roles at a specific, strategic point in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Indeed, Achebe potently uses rain and drought to symbolize and foreshadow Okonkwo’s life in one specific instance early in the novel. Okonkwo reflects on a devastating yam harvest that almost ruined him:
“The year that Okonkwo took eight hundred seed-yams from Nwakibie was the worst year in living memory. Nothing happened at its proper time; it was either too early or too late. It seemed as if the world had gone mad. The first rains were late, and, when they came, lasted only a brief moment. The blazing sun returned, more fierce than it had ever been known, and scorched all the green that had appeared with the rains. The earth burned like hot coals and roasted all the yams that had been sown” (23).
After his initial crops fail because of an intense drought, Okonkwo is slightly relieved that he had borrowed seeds from another man early in the harvest, and decides to plant those to supplant his tremendous losses. However, instead of a drought, an abundance of rain washes away the crops:
“Rain fell as it had never fallen before. For days and nights together it poured down in violent torrents, and washed away the yam heaps.... The yams put on luxuriant green leaves, but every farmer knew that without sunshine the tubers would not grow. That year the harvest was sad, like a funeral.... One man tied his cloth to a tree branch and hanged himself. Okonkwo remembered that tragic year with a cold shiver throughout the rest of his life” (24).
This passage is symbolic because it foreshadows the trajectory of Okonkwo’s life. Nothing happens when it is supposed to, and he perceives that he suffers because of the whims of the gods. Additionally, the man who hangs himself portends Okonkwo’s own suicide.