Things Fall Apart


Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

In the second year of Okonkwo's exile, Obierika comes to visit him, bringing two heavy bags of cowries. Okonkwo and his family are very happy to see Obierika, and Okonkwo presents him to Uchendu, who speaks of Obierika's father and the old days when people would visit distant clans. As he's talking, Uchendu mentions the clan of Abame, and Obierika says that their clan has been wiped out.
Uchendu's character is older and can speak of how the clans' traditions and customs have been changing over time. Okonkwo, however, seems to want traditions to never change—he has a rigid desire to try to keep things exactly as they are. This stands in contrast to Uchendu and Obierika, who seem to have a more nuanced understanding that things do change over time, according to necessity and changing ideas.
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Obierika tells of how a white man visited Abame during the last planting season. Their Oracle said that the strange man would destroy their clan, so the Abame killed the white man and tied his iron horse, or bicycle, to a tree. Then one day, three other white men came by, saw the bicycle, and went away again. For weeks, nothing else happened, but then, on a big market day, the white men came back with a large number of others and surrounded the market. They began to shoot and everybody was killed, except for those who had not been in the market that day.
The Abame kill the white man because their Oracle said he would destroy their clan. But in killing the white man the tribe set in motion the events that really do destroy the clan. In killing the white man were they fulfilling or fighting fate? It is also worth noting that the first real story of the white man among the Igbo is one of conflict, violence, and destruction.
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Uchendu bursts out that they should not have killed the first white man in Abame. “Never kill a man who says nothing,” he says. Okonkwo agrees that they were fools and should have armed themselves in preparation.
Uchendu uses a folktale to illustrate the importance of language—he depicts silence as ominous. And it is true—the white men arrive quietly, and the clan allows them to stay, but they soon take over. Okonkwo agrees that the Abame were foolish, but only because they did not arm themselves to fight the white men. He sees violence as the answer.
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Okonkwo's first wife cooks dinner and Nwoye brings 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 return. Okonkwo thanks him.
Yams are the most traditional meal and a measure of wealth, providing Okonkwo with currency to use. Obierika offers Okonkwo true friendship.
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