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Things Fall Apart

Main Ideas

Metaphors and Similes

Main Ideas Metaphors and Similes

Chapter 1

Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.

In this metaphor, the narrator compares words to food and proverbs to palm oil—the oil the Igbo use to cook their food—that make words more flavorful.

Chapter 3

That year the harvest was sad, like a funeral, and many farmers wept as they dug up the miserable and rotting yams.

In this simile, the narrator compares the harvesting of a poor crop to a funeral at which the farmers mourn their losses because the yam is central to Igbo culture so a poor harvest means they will have few resources until the next season.

Chapter 4

Yam, the king of crops, was a very exacting king. For three or four moons it demanded hard work and constant attention from cock-crow till the chickens went back to roost.

In this metaphor, the narrator compares yams to a very demanding king who requires farmers to serve his needs constantly during the growing season.

Chapter 6

The drummers took up their sticks and the air shivered and grew tense like a tightened bow.

In this simile, the narrator compares the anticipation of the drumbeats at the start of a wrestling match to the tension of a bow-string drawn taut by an archer because wrestling is one of the most important rituals of the Igbo.  

Chapter 8

[Okonkwo] was so weak that his legs could hardly carry him. He felt like a drunken giant walking with the limbs of a mosquito.

After the death of Ikemefuna, when Okonkwo refuses to eat and gets drunk on palm wine, the narrator compares him to a tipsy giant supported only by the tiny legs of a mosquito.

Chapter 9

Okonkwo stood by, rumbling like thunder in the rainy season.

In this simile, the author compares Okonkwo’s threatening demeanor to the sound of thunder before a storm.

Chapter 14

He had been cast out of his clan like a fish onto a dry, sandy beach, panting.

This simile compares Okonkwo’s exile to Mbanta to the proverbial fish out of water, a symbol of feeling completely outside of one’s normal environment.

Chapter 15

[The Oracle] said that other white men were on their way. They were locusts, it said, and that first man was their harbinger sent to explore the terrain. And so they killed him.

In this metaphor, the villagers compare Europeans to a swarm of locusts on its way to destroy their land; they kill the first white man to arrive, hoping this will prevent the rest of the swarm from finding them.

Chapter 16

[Nwoye] felt a relief within as the hymn poured into his parched soul. 

This metaphor compares a Christian hymn to a drink that quenches Nwoye’s spiritual thirst, which his traditional beliefs had failed to satisfy.  

Chapter 24

We must root out this evil. And if our brothers take the side of evil we must root them out too. And we must do it now. We must bale this water now that it is only ankle-deep. . . .

In this double-metaphor, Okika compares the growing church in Umuofia to a weed that needs to be uprooted or water that is starting to flood a boat. Both are situations that must be dealt with right away.