Things Fall Apart

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Yams Symbol Analysis

Yams Symbol Icon
Towards the beginning of the novel, Achebe's narrator refers to yam as “the king of crops,” emphasizing both its importance in Umuofia society and its masculine status. The clan's year is divided according to the planting and harvesting of yams, and Okonkwo's mood and actions vary whether it's the Week of Peace, the planting season, or the Feast of the New Yam. During the Feast of the New Yam, for example, Okonkwo grows restless with celebrations and the lack of work, and his temper flares, creating an episode of violence against Ekwefi. During the planting season, Okonkwo berates Ikemefuna and Nwoye for mishandling the seed-yams, but he's actually the most content during this period of labor, since he can work tirelessly. Yams are labor intensive and considered a man's crop. Only men plant yams, and their ability to support their family with their yam harvest is a sign of wealth and ability.
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Yams Symbol Timeline in Things Fall Apart

The timeline below shows where the symbol Yams appears in Things Fall Apart. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...in nine villages and as a wealthy farmer with three wives, two barns full of yams, and two titles. Although still young, Okonkwo is already one of the greatest men of... (full context)
Chapter 2
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...his three wives has a hut. He also owns a barn with long stacks of yam standing inside, a shed for goats, and a “medicine house” or shrine where he keeps... (full context)
Chapter 3
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Okonkwo worked to earn his first seed-yams with Nwakibie, a wealthy man in his village. Okonkwo brought him a kola nut and... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The year Okonkwo took the seed-yams from Nwakibie turned out to be the worst year for harvesting in living memory. Flooding... (full context)
Chapter 4
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
After the Week of Peace, Okonkwo begins preparing his seed-yams for planting. Nwoye and Ikemefuna help by counting, and occasionally Okonkwo allows them to prepare... (full context)
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
The planting of yams—“the king of crops”—begins, and is very labor intensive. The men plant them, and then as... (full context)
Chapter 5
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The Feast of the New Yam, during which Umuofia celebrates the earth goddess, Ani, approaches. Everyone in the clan looks forward... (full context)
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
The New Yam Festival is celebrated with joy, with in-laws arriving from different villages on the first day,... (full context)
Chapter 12
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
...out of worry for Ezinma. Obierika's compound is busy with preparations for the uri, cooking yams and cassava, preparing goats for the soup. Things are going smoothly until a cow gets... (full context)
Chapter 13
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
...years. He and his family pack up their belongings, and friends help them store their yams in Obierika's barn. Just before dawn, they flee to Okonkwo's motherland, Mbanta. (full context)
Chapter 14
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
...or three pieces of land to farm during the planting season. Uchendu's sons even contribute seed-yams for Okonkwo to farm. (full context)
Chapter 15
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
...the wine. After dinner, Obierika mentions that the money in the bags is for Okonkwo's yams. Obierika says that he will continue to sell them in Umuofia every year until Okonkwo's... (full context)