chapter  3
20 Pages

Why the Snake-Lizard killed his mother

Okonkwo’s suicide, the closing event of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, is in many ways a direct result of the hero’s attempt to displace or decenter the Nneka principle in his private and public life. Nneka, or “mother is supreme,” is an ideal clearly inscribed at the center of the symbolic universe of Okonkwo’s people. Achebe’s fictional explorations of this and other key epistemological and ontological concepts are much influenced by what he calls his people’s “philosophy of life” (Duerden and Peterse 10), which is expressed in several types of Igbo oral tradition. Achebe writes:

Since the Igbo people did not construct a rigid and closely argued system of thought to explain the universe and the place of man in it, preferring the metaphor of myth and poetry, anyone seeking an insight into their world must seek it along their own way. Some of these ways are folktales, proverbs, proper names, rituals and festivals. (“Chi” 132)

Folktales, proverbs, proper names, rituals, and festivals saturate the narrative of Things Fall Apart and suggest the best way to gain insight into the world of the novel.