Things Fall Apart Essential Quotes by Theme: Pride
by Chinua Achebe

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Essential Quotes by Theme: Pride

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 1

When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavily in debt. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him? Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father. Okonkwo was clearly cut out for great things. He was still young but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages. He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife. To crown it all he had taken two titles and had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars. And so although Okonkwo was still young, he was already one of the greatest men of his time. Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings. Okonkwo had clearly washed his hand and so he ate with kings and elders.

Okonkwo is a man of “solid achievements,” based on his physical strength and ability to grow and harvest an abundance of yams (a sign of individual wealth among the Igbo). He had great reason to be proud of his achievements, and even more so when contrasted with those of his father. Unoka was the exact opposite of his son. He had taken no titles (which resulted in increased status in the clan); he was also heavily in debt. Unoka was a laughing stock among the nine villages. Yet his son bore none of the weaknesses that debased his father. Through Okonkwo’s hard work, he gained wealth, yet Unoka’s laziness brought shame to his son. With a full barn and a full home, Okonkwo displayed himself as a man of property. He had not one barn but two. He had just acquired his third wife. His skill in battle also brought him honor. Even though he was young, he had become a leader in the community and seemed destined for greatness. It is through his achievements, not through his age, that Okonkwo is revered among the Igbo people.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 8

Nwoye is old enough to impregnate a woman. At his age I was already fending for myself. No, my friend, he is not too young. A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches. I have done my best to make Nwoye grow into a man, but there is too much of his mother in him.”

“Too much of his grandfather,” Obierika thought, but he did not say it. The same thought also came to Okonkwo’s mind. But he had long learned how to lay that ghost. Whenever the thought of his father’s weakness and failure troubled him he expelled it by thinking about his own strength and success. And so he did now. His mind went to his latest show of manliness.

Okonkwo takes great pride in his place in the clan. He is known for his strength and courage. Yet his oldest son, Nwoye, is nothing like him. He is lazy, resisting the level of commitment to work that his father has. He is weak, Okonkwo stating that “a bowl of pounded yams can throw him in a wrestling match.” Okonkwo sees similar weakness in his other two boys. It is only in his daughter Ezinma that he can see some of those traits which brought him so much renown. His friend, Obierika, tries to calm his fears, stating that the children are still very young and still have much room to grow. Yet, as Okonkwo points out, Nwoye is old enough to become a father and is lagging behind his father at that age. Okonkwo despairs that anything can come of Nwoye, believing that there is “too much of his mother in him.” Obierika, however, sees a parallel between Nwoye and Unoka, the boy’s grandfather. They both exhibit a strong strain of weakness. Okonkwo sees it also, but when confronted with the failings of his father, he turns his eyes on himself and focuses on his own achievements, believing himself incapable of the weakness found in his father and his son.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 24

“The greatest obstacle in Umuofia,” Okonkwo thought bitterly, “is that coward, Egonwanne. His sweet tongue can change fire into cold ash....

(The entire section is 1,388 words.)