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Traditions in Things Fall Apart

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  • 0:03 Traditions
  • 0:29 Rules for Hosts and Guests
  • 1:20 Gender Roles & Bride Price
  • 2:13 Weddings & Burials
  • 3:23 Traditions in Other Clans
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

The many rich traditions of the Umuofia clan guide the people of their society in 'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe. These time-honored practices encompass many areas of the people's lives, from how to arrange a marriage to how to be a good host.

Traditions

Does your family have traditions passed down for generations? The Umuofia clan has a number of traditions that are passed down orally from generation to generation in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. The Umuofians are aware, however, of the traditions of some of the other clans of Igbo people. Ironically, the Umuofians' willingness to live peaceably with others who do not share their traditions brings about the ultimate demise of their culture.

Rules for Hosts and Guests

Some traditions are for hosts and guests. When a neighbor comes to visit, we see an etiquette ritual that involves breaking a kola nut and honoring the gods and ancestors. Unoka is the first person in the novel to be cast in the role of host. 'Unoka immediately rose and shook hands with Okoye, who then unrolled the goatskin which he carried under his arm, and sat down. Unoka went into an inner room and soon returned with a small wooden disc containing a kola nut.'

The host passes the kola to his guest, who gives it back to the host, insisting that it is the host's place to break the kola nut. This ritual exchange continues until at last the host accepts the honor of breaking the nut and serves it to the guest. 'As he broke the kola, Unoka prayed to their ancestors for life and health, and for protection against their enemies. '

Gender Roles & Bride Price

The Umuofia clan practices traditional gender roles for males and females. Women are strictly responsible for cooking, and the group's incredibly rich folk tales are passed from generation to generation by women. Umuofian men, on the other hand, are the warriors and the primary breadwinners. Only men are permitted to farm yams, while women are allowed to grow 'women's crops' like beans and cassava.

Before a man allows his daughter to marry, the bride price must be paid. The male relatives of the potential bride and groom meet to establish the bride price. This is accomplished by passing short broomsticks back and forth in an act of wordless negotiation.

Once a settlement is reached, the women enter with foo-foo, soup, and palm wine to celebrate the engagement. If the bride runs away from her husband after they are married, however, her family is required to return the bride price.

Weddings & Burials

The groom's family is responsible for supplying the palm wine to celebrate the nuptials at the uri, the feast held on the day before the wedding. The groom's family comes to the bride's village, bearing palm wine for the celebration. The number of pots of palm wine is viewed as an indication of respect. When the groom's family brings many pots of wine, this is taken as a sign of great respect for the bride.

However, the ceremony and wedding reception are primarily the responsibility of the bride's mother. She prepares a great deal of food, and her husband slaughters a goat for the festivities, after he first presents it alive to the groom's family.

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