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Nico Botones - 1 Nico Botones Mr.

Cooksey Advance Sophomore English, Period II 29 May 2012 Things Fall Apart: Folks Stories Analyzed Based on the close examinations of the features that Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart, includes within the story, I can illustrate the purpose of these features and correlate to that Achebes intent onto how those features drive the story forward. Throughout the tale of Things Fall Apart, you read about the life of a man named Okonkwo, a leader of Umuofia. Umuofia is a fictional village in Nigeria. This story focuses not only on his life, but also on the customs and histories of the Igbo people and how the influences of missionaries affected all of Umuofia. Wrapped around the story, there includes a feature that Achebe applies to drive the story along. Within the traditions and customs that the Igbo people provide, oral tradition is one of them. The oral tradition set out in this story is featured with the function of folk story-telling. Why did Achebe add this in? First of you have to think about the reasons why folk stories are told. Quintessentially, folk stories are told to its audience to set out morals, life lessons, and to give existential reasons for why things in our lives happen. I even remember my mother, my aunts, and the drunken folks out on our gatherings back in the Philippines; theyd do the same thing, to tell us that these things happen; they would only tell us this through whimsy to not scare us. Now, how does this drive the novel along? To further understand the novel, lets look closely at the stories identified in the book.

Nico Botones - 2 In chapter 11, Ekwefi, Okonkwos first wife, tells her daughter, Ezinma, a story about a greedy, conniving tortoise. All of the birds have been invited to a feast in the sky and Tortoise persuades the birds to lend him feathers to make wings so that he can attend the feast as well. As they travel to the feast, Tortoise also persuades them to take new names for the feast according to custom. He tells the birds that his name will be All of you. When they arrive, Tortoise asks his hosts for whom the feast is prepared. They reply, For all of you. Tortoise proceeds to eat and drink the best parts of the food and wine. The birds, angry and disgruntled at receiving only scraps, take back the feathers that they had given to Tortoise so that he is unable to fly home. Tortoise persuades Parrot to deliver a message to his wife: he wants her to cover their compound with their soft things so that he may jump from the sky without danger. Maliciously, Parrot tells Tortoises wife to bring out all of the hard things. When Tortoise jumps, his shell breaks into pieces on impact. A medicine man puts it together again, which is why Tortoises shell is not smooth. (Summary: ch.11; SparkNote on Things Fall Apart. SparkNotes.com) In chapter 7, Nwoye, Okonkwos son, has been told many times about the story of the Vulture and the Sky. Its a story about how Sky withheld rain for seven years and Vulture pleased to Sky for some rain. At Skys pity, he gave Vulture rain, wrapped in leaves of coco-yam. He flew, but his talons pierced the leaves and the rain fell. He failed. He flew to a distant land where he espied a fire. He warmed himself in the fire and re the entrails of the man who apparently sacrificed himself. (46; ch. 7; p1) The story of the tortoise and the birds provide a little prepared foreshadowing and symbolism. Much like Ive stated about the relation to folk stories, it was inevitable to

Nico Botones - 3 input the moral of the consequences of being greedy. The fact of the matter is Achebe went out of his way finishing the folk stories as a whole. These stories were told in a whimsical fashion as they are fables, but Achebe cleverly input these stories to signify a larger meaning. Relating it with the Igbo people, from European imperialist point of view, its the fact that the Europeans and missionaries are like the tortoise, imperializing places that don't need religious reform; i.e. the Igbo people. Achebe went ahead on used it to foreshadow what might come to the Igbo society. They dont need the reform for they have the culture, the tradition, the happiness, and lifestyle that theyve been accustomed to, but the cunning and greedy Europeans try to claim land and people as well. Take into account what Ezinma has commented about Ekwefis story, There is no song in that story (88; ch. 11; p3). This may be too elaborate for an analysis, but it was noted in there purposefully. The fact that there is no song could mean that there is definitely a sad turn to come forth within the story. Shifting gears for a moment and focus on the protagonist and how this folk story correlates to him. Okonkwo and his family was in exile for seven years, much like how there was no rain for seven years in the story. Upon returning, he finds his village to be intervened by the Europeans; like the tortoise invading the bird land or the fire that the Vulture found that is within a different land. We can relate Okonkwo to the parrot and the tortoise shell with him trying to reclaim the native land by destroying the local church. The tale of the tortoise and the birds will surely follow along with the European colonizers. The thing is Okonkwo is a tragic hero by fault. He doesnt quite get the fact that his violent nature doesnt equate with being manly and pure at heart. This brings him down to his demise; his hubris if you will. He tries to stop the white men, resulting of

Nico Botones - 4 him killing one of their men. Much like the Vulture and Sky story, he is like the rain, although the rain itself couldnt be carried through. The Igbo society, or the birds of the bird land or Vulture as well; they just try to become peaceful with it all; not to fight, but just go embrace with the changes (embracing the fire that represents the Europeans). Okonkwo seems to defy, and completely oppose himself to the folk story. To this, Okonkwo is unable to allow and adapt to this change, he has no function anymore. To think about it then, he has turned into the shell. He tries to get the parrot (his people) to help him out but them instead of giving him a soft cushion (to fight in war); they give him a hard surface (peaceful acceptance). He hangs himself in the balance. In summation, not everything can fall a certain way, especially if you are a stoic man much like Okonkwo. Folk stories themselves are told for reasons: to give you morals and better understandings on how and why things life works and be a certain way. Achebe had put this intentionally to drive the story along; cleverly hiding larger symbolisms through smaller whimsical fables. Not only it is quite metaphorical, but it also means that it does happen. Its inevitable, much like the dangers that come in the lives of the Igbo society. Their culture though embraces the intervening white men. Their fate is foretold like the folk stories. Achebe has pointed out with these stories, it was just through Okonkwos one-track mind that caused him to fail his people, and fall on his own demise.