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50 Things Fall Apart Quotes from the West African Novel

These Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart quotes show why the book is one of the most memorable West African novels ever written.

It tells the story of how life ebbs and flows for Okonkwo, as he and his clan are on the precipice of change and transition. Empires rise and fall, yet it is the people in the society that must either embrace or resist change. 

Things Fall Apart reminds us all that as times and customs change, it is up to the individual to choose what they wish to hold on to and what they wish to let go of. These 50 Things Fall Apart quotes address a number of topics ranging from masculinity, femininity, family, war, foreigners, culture, customs, and West African pearls of wisdom.

Life lessons in Things Fall Apart Quotes

1. “The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.”

things fall apart quotes

2. “ He always said that whenever he saw a dead man’s mouth he saw the folly of not eating what one had in one’s lifetime.”

3. “Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered.”

4. “Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life.”

5. “As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.”

6. “When the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for a walk.”

7. “As our people say, a man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness.”

8. “ A toad does not run in the daytime for nothing.”

9. “As the saying goes, an old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.”

10. “Never make an early morning appointment with a man who has just married a new wife.”

11. “For whom is it well, for whom is it well? There is no one for whom it is well.”

12. “But I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice.”

Inspiration from Things Falll Apart Quotes

13. “The lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did.”

14. “Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching”

15. “ Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.”

16. “Our elders say that the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them. I shall pay my big debts first.”

17. “Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father.”

18. “We do not ask for wealth because he that has health and children will also have wealth. We do not pray to have more money but to have more kinsmen.”

19. “Do not despair. I know you will not despair. You have a manly and a proud heart. A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.”

20. “We are better than animals because we have kinsmen. An animal rubs its itching flank against a tree, a man asks his kinsman to scratch him.”

21. “It’s true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you.”

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Things Fall Apart quotes about the Characters

22. “Perhaps down in his heart, Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw.”

23. “Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. Even as a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title.”

24. “And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion-to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness.”

25. “He could hear in his mind’s ear the blood-stirring and intricate rhythms of the ekwe and the udu and the ogene, and he could hear his own flute weaving in and out of them, decorating them with a colorful and plaintive tune. The total effect was gay and brisk, but if one picked out the flute as it went up and down and then broke up into short snatches, one saw that there was sorrow and grief there.”

26. “He neither inherited a barn nor a title, nor even a young wife. But in spite of these disadvantages, he had begun even in his father’s lifetime to lay the foundations of a prosperous future. It was slow and painful. But he threw himself into it like one possessed. And indeed he was possessed by the fear of his father’s contemptible life and shameful death.”

27. “He had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had had no patience with his father.”

28. “Mosquito, she had said, had asked Ear to marry him, whereupon Ear fell on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. “How much longer do you think you will live?” she asked. “You are already a skeleton.” Mosquito went away humiliated, and any time he passed her way he told Ear that he was still alive. “

29. “Mother Kite once sent her daughter to bring food. She went, and brought back a duckling. ‘You have done very well,’ said Mother Kite to her daughter, ‘but tell me, what did the mother of this duckling say when you swooped and carried its child away?’ ‘It said nothing,’ replied the young kite. ‘It just walked away.’ ‘You must return the duckling,’ said Mother Kite. ‘There is something ominous behind the silence.’ And so Daughter Kite returned the duckling and took a chick instead. ‘What did the mother of this chick do?’ asked the old kite. ‘it cried and raved and cursed me,’ said the young kite. ‘Then we can eat the chick,’ said her mother. ‘There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts.”

30. “Yam stood for manliness, and he who could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed.”

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31. “The oldest man present said sternly that those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble.”

32. “If a man comes into my hut and defecates on the floor, what do I do? Do I shut my eyes? No, I take a stick and break his head. That is what a man does.”

Things Fall Apart Quotes about religion

33. “All the gods you have named are not gods at all. They are gods of deceit who tell you to kill your fellows and destroy innocent children. There is only one true God and He has the earth, the sky, you and me and all of us.”

34. “To abandon the gods of one’s father and go about with a lot of effeminate men clucking like old hens was the very depth of abomination.”

35. “When a man blasphemes, what do we do? Do we go and stop his mouth? No. We put our fingers into our ears to stop us hearing. That is a wise action.”

36. “A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi. The saying of the elders was not true-that if a man said yea his chi also affirmed. Here was a man whose chi said nay despite his own affirmation.”

37. “If you had been poor in your last life I would have asked you to be rich when you come again. But you were rich. If you had been a coward, I would have asked you to bring courage. But you were a fearless warrior. If you had died young, I would have asked you to get life. But you lived long. So I shall, ask you to come again the way you came before. If your death was the death of nature, go in peace. But if a man caused it, do not allow him a moment’s rest.”

38. “We make sacrifices to the little gods, but when they fail and there is no one else to turn to we go to Chukwu. It is right to do so. We approach a great man through his servants. But when his servants fail to help us, then we go to the last source of hope. We appear to pay greater attention to the little gods but that is not so. We worry them more because we are afraid to worry their Master. Our fathers knew that Chukwu was the Overlord and “that is why many of them gave their children the came Chukwuka” Chukwu is Supreme.”

39. “And what is the result? An abominable religion has settled among you. A man can now leave his father and his brothers. He can curse the gods of his fathers and his ancestors, like a hunter’s dog that suddenly goes mad and turns on his master. I fear for you; I fear for the clan.”

More Things Fall Apart Quotes

40. “Among the lbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.”

41. “I’lI beg you to accept this little kola,” he said. “It is not to pay you back for all you did for me in these seven years. A child cannot pay for its mother’s milk. I have only called you together because it is good for kinsmen to meet.”

42. “But he says that our customs are bad; and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

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43. “He could not stop the rain now, just as he would not attempt to start it in the heart of the dry season, without serious danger to his own health. The personal dynamism required to counter the forces of these extremes of weather would be far too great for the human frame. “

44. “The story was always told of a wealthy man who set before his guests a mound of foo-foo so high that those who sat on one side could not see what was happening on the other, and it was not until late in the evening that one of them saw for the first time his in-law who had arrived during the course of the meal and had fallen to on the opposite side. It was only then that they exchanged greetings and shook hands over what was left of the food. “

45. “And then quite suddenly a shadow fell on the world, and the sun seemed hidden behind a thick cloud.”

46. “That boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death.”

47. “ A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches.”

48. “ Whenever the thought of his father’s weakness and failure troubled him he expelled it by thinking about his own strength and success. And so he did now. His mind went to his latest show of manliness”

49. “His life had been ruled by a great passion-to become one of the lords of the clan. That had been his life-spring. And he had all but achieved it. Then everything had been broken. He had been cast out of his clan like a fish onto a dry, sandy beach, panting, clearly his personal god or chi was not made for great things”

50. “You think you are the greatest sufferer in the world? Do you know that men are sometimes banished for life? Do you know that men sometimes lose all their yams and even their children? I had six wives once. I have none now except that young girl who knows not her right from her left. Do you know how many children I have buried–children I begot in my youth’ and strength? Twenty-two. I did not hang myself, and I am still alive. If you think you are the greatest sufferer in the world ask my daughter, Akueni, how many twins she has borne and thrown away. Have you not. heard the song they sing when a woman dies?”

Nothing lasts forever. Okonkwo’s experience reminds the reader of the importance of balancing our connection to our traditions while embracing new forms of change.

While Okonkwo was fond of his culture’s traditions and ways, in some instances he was unable to adjust to times of change.

There is a proverb that says that when the hard wind blows, the mighty unbending trees fall while the trees that can bend are able to survive and grow another day. It is important for all of us to remain connected to things that keep us grounded.

However, it is equally important when to know when to adjust and when to remain steadfast. Use these Things Fall Apart quotes as motivation to inspiration to find the balance of staying connected and learning where to bend and adjust.

Clifton Sankofa
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