Things Fall Apart


Chinua Achebe

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Things Fall Apart makes teaching easy.
Fire Symbol Icon
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.

Fire Quotes in Things Fall Apart

The Things Fall Apart quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fire. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Chapter 13 Quotes

As soon as the day broke, a large crowd of men from Ezeudu's quarter stormed Okonkwo's compound, dressed in garbs of war. They set fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals and destroyed his barn. It was the justice of the earth goddess, and they were merely her messengers. They had no hatred in their hearts again Okonkwo. His greatest friend, Obierika, was among them. They were merely cleansing the land which Okonkwo had polluted with the blood of a clansman.

Related Characters: Okonkwo, Obierika
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 124-125
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment. Evil men and all the heathen who in their blindness bowed to wood and stone were thrown into a fire that burned like palm-oil. But good men who worshipped the true God lived forever in His happy kingdom.

Related Characters: Mr. Brown
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.

Related Characters: Okonkwo (speaker), Nwoye
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Things Fall Apart LitChart as a printable PDF.
Things Fall Apart PDF

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
Language Theme Icon
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)