Proverbe’s Things Fall Apart

Proverbs and idioms have been around since the existence of language. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe uses these proverbs and vernacular language very well to write a novel that is appreciated and understood by a diverse crowd of readers. To be able to explain a very different culture to a diverse group of readers is very hard, and Achebe achieves this with his usage of proverbs. Achebe has often been called one of the best african authors simply because his writing is so easy to comprehend and it helps readers understand the different culture of the Igbo people.

Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart has been widely translated, deservedly canonized, studied at schools worldwide, and examined from various disciplinary, theoretical, critical, and pedagogical angles” (Okonkwo 109). This passage from Christopher Okonkwo’s text shows how well respected and studied Things Fall Apart is. Throughout Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe’s usage of proverbs and vernacular language helps to make the text a well respected novel and easy to understand.

To begin, the “Igbo’s are the second largest tribe or group of people living in Southern Nigeria, and although many live in scattered groups of villages, they all speak the same language. They consist of many subgroups and are socially and culturally diverse (Encyclopedia. com “Igbo”). “The Igbo who number over 30 million in Nigeria are the country’s third-largest ethnic group” (Afsai 14). This quote by Afsai shows how large the Igbo are and how much of Nigeria they span across. Many of the individuals who are part of the Igbo have been with them since they were very young and have also been living in the same part of Nigeria.

The Igbo are mainly farming people known for taro, yam, and cassava. The Igbo’s generally leave yam to the men, and the other crops to the women. The Igbo have a lot of love for their crops and without their love for it, they would not be able to thrive like they do. The first proverb that Achebe uses is discussed through the palm wine. Palm wine or also known as “mmanya ocha” (literally meaning “white drink”) plays a very important role in their society. The palm wine is very traditional and very important to the Igbo people.

The first proverb takes place when the main character, Okonkwo, visits the wealthiest man in their settlement. He brings palm wine as a gift and just before he pours it, he says “a man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness” (Achebe 19). This proverb is saying that if someone pays respect to those around him, he will eventually (if he follows the right path), become great. Afterwards Okonkwo offers the man some palm wine and shares it with the man. With this proverb, the author is able to easily explain to the reader how the Igbo people show respect to the great, by giving them the palm wine.

Achebe’s novel is filled with many fantastic proverbs. The next proverb that I found is about man and his “chi”. In the Igbo society, everybody and everything has a “chi. A chi is not only a part of a god, but is your higher self. The chi is more like a person’s spirit. The proverb is, “when a man says yes, his chi also says yes” (Achebe 27). This is simply stating that when someone says yes, their spirit will say yes and follow them too. The chi will help and guide the person and help the conquer any problems that they may face.

Everyone’s chi is a very important part of their society and since Americans don’t really have the same beliefs, Achebe is able to explain this part of their society through a proverb. Once again, with the use of the proverb, Achebe is able to explain another ritual or custom of their culture easily to the readers with the easy to comprehend proverb. The Igbo women also have a large role in the Igbo society. The women in the Igbo culture were mainly storytellers. The Igbo’s stories teach natural phenomena and many lessons to those who are listening to them. Achebe includes a very good proverb from a story told in the book.

The story is from Ekwefi, one of Okonkwo’s many wives, and is about a tortoise who goes to the sky. The tortoise is tricked into jumping onto very sharp objects, which end up cracking the tortoise’s shell. The story goes, “His shell broke into pieces… That is why tortoise’s shell is not smooth” (Achebe 99). This story is told to teach a lesson to many of the young in the Igbo society. The lesson of this story is if you bring danger to others, you will bring trouble to yourself. If the tortoise would not have gone up into the sky, he would not of have gotten hurt and broken his shell.

Since the tortoise went up into the sky, bringing trouble to himself, he was hurt and it was his/her own fault. They teach this story lesson to kids to keep them out of trouble and to show them their strong culture of storytelling. Since Achebe shared this story with the readers, he was able to show everyone how important storytelling is in their culture and how every story teaches a lesson. The last proverb that I found in the book is about parents influence on their children. Many times in the book, Achebe told the readers about the importance in society of parents being a role model to their kids.

The proverb he uses is, “When mother cow is chewing grass its young ones watch its mouth” (Achebe 71). The meaning of this proverb is that children look up to their parents and see their parents as role models, and follow what they do. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe writes about how important it is for parents to be role models for their children and for parents to look down to their kids to make sure they learn traditions that are passed down in the Igbo culture. With the use of this proverb, Achebe is easily able to explain the importance of parents in their roles in society as role models and mentors to the children.

This proverb shows that in the Igbo society, mentoring and watching over children is very important because one day their kids will become the role models to their own kids. Even though this proverb is more confusing, his use of proverbs to share parts of their culture with many different types of readers is very impressive. I believe that without the use of proverbs and vernacular language, the story could not be completely understood. Some proverbs are difficult to understand, but for the most part the proverbs are very easy to understand.

Even if you do not understand one of his proverbs, he usually explains the meaning of them in the following sentences. The glossary also gives english definitions for words used in the story. So, while proverbs are hard to understand and most Americans do not understand Igbo, Achebe provides the readers with plenty of help to understand the meaning of words. The use of proverbs and vernacular language is crucial to understanding not only the Igbo culture, but also the book. Overall, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a very well respected and famous novel.

Achebe was able to make this text so interesting and easy to read with his use of proverbs and vernacular language. Even though most readers do not understand the Igbo culture and language, Achebe allows the readers to easily comprehend the language due to the use of his proverbs. To be able to explain a very different culture to a diverse group of readers is very hard, but Achebe is able to achieve that throughout this novel. In conclusion, Achebe’s use of vernacular language and proverbs allows the readers to easily comprehend the Igbo language and culture.