Editor’s Note: “Words that Never Die” is a weekly installment of compelling quotes from the world’s most influential people. This week, we highlight an excerpt from Chinua Achebe’s book, “Things Fall Apart.”
"Perhaps I have been away too long," Okonkwo said, almost to himself. "But I cannot understand these things you tell me. What is it that has happened to our people? Why have they lost the power to fight?"
"Have you not heard how the white man wiped out Abame?" asked Obierika. "I have heard," said Okonkwo. "But I have also heard that Abame people were weak and foolish. Why did they not fight back? Had they no guns and machetes? We would be cowards to compare ourselves with the men of Abame. Their fathers had never dared to stand before our ancestors. We must fight these men and drive them from the land."
"It is already too late," said Obierika sadly. "Our own men and our sons have joined the ranks of the stranger. They have joined his religion and they help to uphold his government. If we should try to drive out the white men in Umuofia we should find it easy. There are only two of them. But what of our own people who are following their way and have been given power? They would go to Umuru and bring the soldiers, and we would be like Abame." He paused for a long time and then said: "I told you on my last visit to Mbanta how they hanged Aneto."
"What has happened to that piece of land in dispute?" asked Okonkwo. "The white man's court has decided that it should belong to Nnama's family, who had given much money to the white man's messengers and interpreter." "Does the white man understand our custom about land?"
"How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? 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."
[Excepts of Chenua Achebe’s book ‘Things Fall Apart’]
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