What I love about Things Fall Apart is how it so easily transports me to another time, place, and culture that’s the complete antithesis to my own.
Could early late 19th century Nigeria—in the small tribe of Umuofia–be any more different than early 21st century Nashville, Tennessee? Slightly.
One of the predominant themes in the novel is the spirit world. These people were freaked out by spirits—in the form of their ancestors and the gods.
The tribe’s leaders would dress up in masks and elaborate gowns, appear out of a tent in the middle of the village, and claim to be the egwugwu–ancestral gods.
No one in the village seemed to notice that when these gods descended from their throne—wherever it might be—that suddenly none of the tribe’s leaders were around.
How can that be? It’s like the Nigerian tribal version of Clark Kent and Superman—come on people…they are never together!
To give you an idea of some of Achebe’s description of the spirit world, I pulled together a few examples:
- “‘Beware Okonkwo!’ she warned. ‘Beware of exchanging words with Agbala. Does a man speak when a god speaks? Beware!'”
- “Darkness held a vague terror for these people, even the bravest among them. Children were warned not to whistle at night for fear of evil spirits.”
- “I am Evil Forest. I kill a man on the day that his life is sweetest to him.”
- “Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life.”
- “It is against our custom, It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen. His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it.”
- “Their clan is full of evil spirits of these unburied dead, hungry to do harm to the living.”
Keep in mind, something about a spirit or a god appears on almost every page. The spirits are everywhere.
If you haven’t read Things Fall Apart, I’m going to highly recommend it. I love this book.
Review coming next week.