Things Fall Apart

by: Chinua Achebe

Generational divide

Quotes Generational divide
[Okonkwo] was a man of action, a man of war. Unlike his father he could stand the look of blood.

When Umuofia’s town crier beats his drum one night to call the village to a meeting in the morning, Okonkwo speculates that the meeting may be about a clash with a neighboring clan. The narrator insists that such a prospect does not disturb Okonkwo, who has proven himself many times as “a man of war.” Okonkwo’s achievements in battle distinguish him from his father, Unoka, who does not possess the same masculine drive as his son, and whom Okonkwo sees as a coward.

Okonkwo encouraged the boys to sit with him in his obi, and he told them stories of the land—masculine stories of violence and bloodshed. Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell.

Okonkwo recognizes Nwoye’s predilection for the kinds of folktales his mother tells, and Okonkwo sees this as a cause for concern. In order to grow into a proper man, Okonkwo believes that Nwoye, along with his other sons, should be brought up on “masculine stories of violence and bloodshed.” For his part, Nwoye understands what his father expects of him, yet he secretly maintains his preference for stories that do not foreground violence. This fundamental disagreement points to the emotional distance between father and son, and prefigures Nwoye’s eventual conversion to Christianity.

“I have only a short while to live, and so have Uchendu and Unachukwu and Emefo. But I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice.”

The man who speaks these words is an unnamed elder from Okonkwo’s umunna (i.e., his mother’s clan). This elder addresses a group of young men and expresses his concerns about the obsolescence of Igbo traditions and the consequent dissolution of cultural and familial bonds. These words powerfully foreshadow the experience Okonkwo will have when he returns to Umuofia following his exile and finds his fatherland increasingly divided as more and more villagers flock to the Christian mission.