Things Fall Apart

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Okonkwo and his fellow clansmen liken him to a “Roaring Flame”—aggressive, powerful, and strong-willed. For Okonkwo, these are all positive, masculine traits, and he laments the fact that his son Nwoye doesn't possess the same fiery spirit. However, Okonkwo has a revelation in Chapter 17, as he gazes into the fire after his son joins the Christians: “Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.” He realizes that his aggression could foster the opposite in Nwoye, but he never makes the connection that fire eventually exhausts its source as well. All of Okonkwo's impatience and aggression eventually lead to his own destruction after a spectacular final flare of anger when he murders the white messenger.
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Fire Symbol Timeline in Things Fall Apart

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire appears in Things Fall Apart. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Language Theme Icon
...calls and asks Ezinma to bring her live coals, which Ezinma stokes into a live flame. The drums begin beating to signal the wrestling match, and as Ekwefi prepares the meal,... (full context)
Chapter 13
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
As the day breaks, a crowd of men from Ezeudu's quarter set fire to Okonkwo's houses, killing his animals and destroying his barn. They do this simply out... (full context)
Chapter 17
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
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Masculinity Theme Icon
...he could have borne a weak son like Nwoye. Then, as he gazes into the fire, he realizes that “living fire begets cold, impotent ash.” (full context)