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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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1 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Cecily Isenberg Period 4 March 22, 2010

2 Honoring Ani: The New Yam Festival
CHAPTER FIVE Honoring Ani: The New Yam Festival

Each new year in great anticipation, all the villagers gather round together for the celebratory New Yam Festival, as it is “an occasion for joy throughout Umuofia” (37). Guests from far away are invited, homes are cleaned and painted with red earth, men and women are painted with appealing black patterns, and the children are decorated—even their hair.

4 QUOTE #2: Everyone is happily preparing for the New Yam Festival, yet Okonkwo “was always uncomfortable sitting around for days waiting for a feast” (37). He is satisfied when he has to work and is able to unleash his aggressions. Restless as a lion and ready to attack, he shamefully finds fault with his second wife’s, Ekwefi, actions and “the storm burst” (38). Unable to harness his negative outbursts even during this sacred time, Okonkwo again defies protocol. He lacks mindfulness at times and thus further sets the stage for “things to fall apart.”

5 QUOTE #3: Erroneously blaming his second wife for killing a banana tree, “Okonkwo gave her a sound beating and left her and her only daughter weeping” (38). His raging anger explodes often and he continuously abuses the emotions of family members. He is too focused on not showing any of the admirable female traits exhibited by his father, Unoka—especially the trait of gentleness with his supportive family.

6 QUOTE #4: Though a warrior externally, Okonkwo still needs the blessings of Ani and prior generations, and “Early that morning as he offered a sacrifice of new yam and palm-oil to his ancestors he asked them to protect him, his children and their mothers in the new year” (39). He honors his culture and humbles himself before his spirit ancestors. He has excessive pride, yet not too much hubris to ask for spiritual help.

7 QUOTE #5: While eating and talking with his two daughters, he tenderly acknowledges his affection for his only child with Ekwefi: “Okonkwo was specially fond of Ezinma” and “his fondness only showed on very rare occasions” (44). He wishes that she had been born a boy, as she has an honorable way of carrying herself. She understands her father and shows respect for him at all times.

8 THEMES “A well-balanced person—or a well-balanced culture—requires the cultivation of both “male” and “female” virtues: for example, discipline and forbearance; judgment and compassion; science and art; stubbornness and flexibility.” Okonkwo needs to be gentle with his family and allow mistakes to be made without his heavy physical, emotional, and verbal abuse as a consequence.

9 THEMES (Continued) “The one who violates his or her own conscience must always pay a price, in one way or another.” Okonkwo should never have taken a gun to threaten Ekwefi—doing so only violates his chi, his wife, and Ani. It is all these violations that support the burden for “things to fall apart.”

10 THEMES (Continued) “Vengeance does not necessarily bring about justice.” Okonkwo should not have beaten Ekwefi or shot his gun at her, as his violence does not bring about any justice—it only brings the disrespect of his fellow tribes’ people and certain family members—especially Nwoye.

11 SYMBOLS Yam: The main meal for the Ibo people. It symbolizes sustenance and life—bringing forth nutrition from mother earth, Ani. Banana leaf: Ekwefi only uses a few leaves to help create a good meal for the Feast of the New Yam, yet Okonkwo falsely accuses her of killing the tree. He is blind to see her true motive of caretaking for her family. Gun: White man’s weapon—destructive in the hands of the wrong person.

12 IMAGERY Sound: “The drums were still beating, persistent and unchanging. Their sound was no longer a separate thing from the village. It was like the pulsation of its heart. It throbbed in the air, in the sunshine, and even in the trees, and filled the village with excitement” (44).

13 IMAGERY (Sound: Continued)
“He pressed the trigger and there was a loud report accompanied by the wail of his wives and children” (39).

14 IMAGERY (Sight: Continued)
On the last night before the festival, yams of the old year were all disposed of by those who still had them. The new year must begin with tasty, fresh yams and not the shriveled and fibrous crop of the previous year” (36).

15 IMAGERY (Sight: Continued)
“The story was always told of a wealthy man who set before his guests a mound of foo-foo so high that those who sat on one side could not see what was happening on the other, and it was not until late in the evening that one of them saw for the first time his in-law who had arrived during the course of the meal” (37).

16 IMAGERY (Sight: Continued)
“Okonkwo’s wives had scrubbed the walls and the huts with red earth until they reflected light. They had then drawn patterns on them in white, yellow and dark green. They then set about painting themselves with cam wood and drawing beautiful black patterns on their stomachs and on their backs. The children were also decorated, especially their hair, which was shaved in beautiful patterns” (37-38).

17 SETTING Place: Umuofia Time: Before harvest began: The new year

18 NEW VOCABULARY Ani: The earth goddess and the source of all fertility
Foo-foo: Mush made of yams Ezigbo: The good one Ilo: The village playground Inyanga: Showing off, bragging Obi: The large living quarters of the head of the family

19 CHARACTERIZATION Okonkwo: While he does beat his wife and actually point a gun at her, he prays to his ancestors for his family’s protection. He also shows that Ezinma has a place in his shallow, hard heart—he allows a thoughtful tenderness to seep through the cement and spring forth love. Ezinma: Is a dear child: She supports her mother and offers, “Let me make the fire for you” (41) and comforts her father and asks, “Can I bring your chair for you?” (44).

20 IRONY “And so when he called Ikemefuna to fetch his gun, the wife who had just been beaten murmured something about guns that never shot” (39). Ironically, this sets him off and he pulls the trigger to shoot her, even though “he was not a hunter” (38). He should not have this gun, as he is “a great man whose prowess was universally acknowledged” and he does not need a gun to prove his might—the gun alludes to tragedy.

21 SATIRE “He had an old rusty gun” and “had not killed a rat with his gun” (38). Achebe shows Okonkwo’s vulnerabilities with white man’s weapons—that he has no business owning the gun and that he does not even know how to use it. His strength comes from his physical ability and he appears foolish—something he despises—when unable to use the gun properly.

22 FORESHADOWING “He was not a hunter” (38). This comment opens up Pandora’s box in that when he gets in a rage—Okonkwo will use a weapon that he does not have mastery over. Okonkwo should respect what he is and is not capable of doing proficiently. His lack of control, mixed with his lack of technical expertise foreshadow a future calamity of great sadness and despair.

23 FOUND POEM Ani, earth goddess Ultimate judge New Yam Banana tree
Sound beating, weeping Old rusty gun Pressed the trigger The wail, unhurt Feasting and fellowship Wrestling contest Offered a sacrifice Ekwefi suffered Ezinma offered Thank you, Ezigbo Desire to conquer Drums persistent, unchanging Filled the village A boy’s job Fond of Ezinma Very rare occasions

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