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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Part Three, Chapter 20 Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. What is the significance of the saying “The clan was like a lizard; if it lost its tail it soon grew another”? (p. 121)

2. How is Okonkwo able to grow yams in Umuofia when he is actually located in Mbanta?

3. What is a kotma?

4. How does Okonkwo want his sons to be raised?

5. Why does Okonkwo regret that Ezinma is a girl?

6. Why is Ezinma able to convince Obiageli, her half-sister, to marry in Umuofia?

7. What is the sacrament of Holy Communion called in Igbo?

8. Describe the city of Umuru and explain its significance.

9. The Igbo prisoners sing a song about the “kotma of the ashy buttocks.” How do the court messengers react to being called “Ashy-Buttocks”? (pp. 123–124)

10. How does Okonkwo compare the people of Abame with the people of Umuofia?

1. The saying means that if a man left the clan, someone soon filled his place.

2. Every year Obierika distributes Okonkwo’s yams to sharecroppers.

3. A kotma is a “court man.” This is derived from the English term. It is also translated as “court messenger.”

4. Okonkwo wants his sons to hold their heads high among the Igbo people. He wants his sons to be raised in traditional Igbo culture.

5. Okonkwo regrets that Ezinma is a girl because she alone understands his every mood, and a bond of sympathy has grown between them. She understands things perfectly. If Ezinma were a boy, Okonkwo could teach her more, and their relationship would survive her marriage.

6. Ezinma wields strong influence over Obiageli. The two young women refuse every offer of marriage in Mbanta.

7. The sacrament of Holy Communion is called “Holy Feast” in Igbo. Ogbuefi Ugonna thinks of the feast in terms of eating and drinking. He puts his drinking-horn into his goatskin bag for the occasion.

8. The city of Umuru is located on the Niger River. White men arrived there many years ago and built their center of religion, trade, and government. The kotma, or court messengers, come from Umuru.

9. The court messengers do not like to be called “Ashy-Buttocks.” They beat the prisoners, but the song spreads in Umuofia.

10. Okonkwo says the men of Umuofia would be cowards to compare themselves with the men of Abame. The fathers of Abame never dared to stand before the ancestors of Umuofia.

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