Elements Contributing to the Success of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" (5)

5. Reference to Nature

The last element contributing to the success of the novel Things Fall Apart is the reference to nature. Since the novel talks about the life of the native people in Nigeria, it cannot be neglected that their life is related to planting, gardening, hunting, and many things related to the nature. The illustration of planting, as the reference to nature, can be seen on the back-plot of the novel, when Achebe talks about the life of little Okonkwo with his mother and sisters.

And so at the very early age when he was striving desperately to build a barn through share cropping Okonkwo was also fending for his father’s house. It was like pouring grains of corn into a bag full of holes. His brother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops, like coco-yams, beans, cassava. Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crop.
(Achebe, 1958: 16)

Another reference to nature also talks about plants. It can be seen when Ikemefuna teaches Nwoye many things.

He could fashion out flute from bamboo seems and even from the elephant grass. He knew the names of all birds and could set clever traps for the little bush rodents. And he knew which trees made the strongest bows.
(Achebe, 1958: 20)

Ikemefuna teaches Nwoye many things about nature from which Nwoye knows many things about nature, and can make some fun for himself.
Another reference to nature is the ability of Umuofia in observing the nature in predicting the climate. This reference can be seen in the following quotation:

After the Week of Peace every man and his family began to clear the bush to make new farms. They cut bush was left to dry and fire was then set to it. As the smoke rose into the sky kites appeared from different directions hovered over the burning field in silent valediction. The rainy season was approaching when they would go away until the dry season returned.
(Achebe, 1958: 23)

From the quotation above, it can bee seen that the Umuofia used to see the nature to find out the next climate by the appearence of kites in the sky. They use the nature to guide their agriculture life.
Another reference to nature can be found when Okonkwo and his family go to the farm planting yams.

Yam, the king of crops, was a very exacting king. For these three or four moons it demanded hard work and constant attention from cock-crow till the chicken went back to roost. The young tendrils were protected from earth-heat with ring of sisal leaves. As the rains became heavier the women planted maize, melons and beans between the yam mounds. The yam were then stacked first with the single sticks and later with tall and big tree branches.
(Achebe, 1958: 24)

From the quotation above, it is found out that Achebe puts the method of planting yams through Okonkwo’s story. Yam is considered as the exacting plant that needs lots of attention from cock-crow till the children go back to roost. The reference to nature shown in the quotation above indicates that yam should be taken care well from everything that can destroy it since yam is regarded by umofians as the king of crops. Besides, it also symbolizes a man’s crop.


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