Illustration of a person holding their head next to a noose and a detached head

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Start Free Trial

What two delicacies are offered to guests in Things Fall Apart and what do they signify?

Quick answer:

The two delicacies offered to guests are the kola nut (symbolic of hospitality and respect) and palm wine (symbolic of order, vitality, and prosperity).

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Food customs are of primary importance to the Igbo people of Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart. The novel speaks in a special way of two delicacies offered to guests.

The first is the kola nut, which is a symbol of hospitality. "He who brings kola brings life," says Okoye, and breaking the kola is considered an honor. To do so is to claim (or be given) a place of respect in society and in the household. The kola nut is also used in the worship of traditional gods, and people sacrifice kola nuts and offer them up with prayers for life, happiness, and good harvests. The kola nut, then, is all about respect, and at one point, one of the characters refuses to eat the kola nut in a house where he sees "no respect for our gods and ancestors."

The other delicacy offered to guests is palm wine. This wine also shows respect and status among the people as well as being a symbol of celebration and victory. The people drink palm wine in a particular order with the oldest men drinking first and the others following according to their ages. Then the women drink (from the first wife to the last). When the custom is followed, everything is in proper order and is correctly designated. Vitality and prosperity will follow. Palm wine can also symbolize the connections between people, as when new in-laws arrive with palm wine to mark their new connection with a family.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial