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THE LIFE OF THE TRIBE
Throughout his novel Things Fall Apart, Achebe has attempted to describe the intricacies of the lifestyle of the Igbo, a thriving culture living in Nigeria. The novel produces impressive and beautiful artifacts in music, dance and above all, in conversation. “Proverbs are the palm-oil with which the words are eaten.” Many interesting and meaningful proverbs have been injected into the narrative of the novel. For example. “The sun will shine on those who stand, before it shines on those who kneel under them”, and “A toad does not run in the daytime for nothing”, “Eneke the bird says that since men have learnt to fly without perching”, and “The lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did” and many more.
A religion that is both mysterious and homely is revealed. Its vitality calls upon the sincerity of its followers who support it with a lot of conviction. At the same time, Achebe also informs the reader about life in the tribe, its customs and manners, its government and its administration of justice, its religious rites and beliefs, etc. A town crier always announces a meeting of the tribe where important decisions are made. Men and women with loathsome diseases are abandoned in the Evil Forest. Unoka, Okonkwo’s own father, suffers this fate. Twins too are abandoned in the same way. The egwugwu, who are the masked representation of their ancestral spirits, are deeply respected and revered. It is they who administer justice in the land, and are portrayed as awesome and almost supernatural. Certain superstitious and religious beliefs like the importance of the Oracle of the Hills and Caves are also highlighted.
Many folk-tales are related in the novel, like the story of the tortoise, the tortoise and the cat which reveal the strange nuances of their society and culture as well as the importance of stories and their pedagogical value. Morals and values are described through these seemingly simple tales of animals.
Social customs such as marriage ceremonies, funeral arrangements, and the gaining of titles are described in great detail to give the reader a glimpse of the way of life of Igbo, especially that of the clans members of Umuofia. Although many of these customs are similar throughout Igbo culture, it is important to remember that each village develops their own customs and rituals as well as dialects and that many villages were often at warfare with each other. These differences were exploited by the colonialists who often pitted clan against clan to gain control over their villages.