Communicating with Words in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

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Words are the most complex, yet simple form of communication between human beings. They form an eternal bond to the future by preserving ideas from the past and present. Just as a picture depicts a specific event, words form sentences that can enlighten that event in greater detail. It is the writer’s responsibility to choose the most appropriate way to organize words into a painting of a stunning sunset or a thesis of scientific theory. The beauty of words is that there is neither a wrong nor correct way to use them. One common way to use words in African culture is in proverbs. These short sayings employ folk tales and everyday occurrences to offer the wisdom necessary to explain crucial rudimentary morals. Chinua Achebe states in his novel, Things Fall Apart, that “…proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” (7). Interpreting this in such a way so that eating words is a metaphor for gaining knowledge, proverbs act as the fuel, or moving force, of African life.
Conversation in the Ibo culture is highly valued because it exposes the intentions of who is speaking. Proverbs are used to justify the opinions and motives of the speaker by using words of wisdom. Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, is an ideal example of someone using proverbs to show the necessity of an intelligent conversation. In order to talk Okoye into lending him more money he says, “’Our elders say that the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.’” (7). This

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