Things Fall Apart

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Things Fall Apart Reflection

3. Interpret this proverb, spoken of Okonkwo: “When a man says yes his chi says yes also.” What role does Okonkwo’s chi play in shaping his destiny? Note, however, that, “The Igbo people did not believe that a man’s chi controlled his entire destiny.”

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe tells us an eye-opening story about how a Nigerian tribe fell apart when the white men came to civilize the nation. In the book there is a repeated idea of something the Igbo people referred to as chi. Chi is a personal god that is appointed at birth and remains with you till death. In the beginning it says about Okonkwo, “that his chi or personal god was good.” (27) This was said because he had great success as a farmer, husband, and father. From this we can be interpreted that one’s chi determines one’s fate, but this is not completely true because there are areas in the book that contradict this very idea. There is an African proverb that says, “When a man says yes his chi says yes also.” (27) This implies that a man chooses his fate as he is the one who makes the decisions and the chi follows. In the book there are various quotations that support both ideas of the role of chi, but there are more that suggest that the chi chooses the fate.

An example of how chi determines one’s fate is found when the narrator is telling us about Unoka, “Unoka was an ill-fated man. He had a bad chi or personal god, and evil fortune followed him to the grave...” (18). Another example is found in this quotation, which appears during the times that Okonkwo is exiled, “Clearly his personal god or chi was not made for great things. A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi. The saying of the elders was not true--that if a man said yea his chi also affirmed. Here was a man whose chi said nay despite his own affirmation.” (131)

The role of chi in Okonkwo’s destiny is quite interesting. In the beginning we see Okonkwo as a successful man with titles,...
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