Proverbs in Things Fall Apart

Topics: Meaning of life, Semantics, Human Pages: 6 (2038 words) Published: April 25, 2010
Proverbs are wise sayings that address the heart of the discourse in any given context, truthfully and objectively. In Africa and in Nigerian cultures especially, they are considered the reliable horses, which convey meanings to their destinations or hearts of the listeners. This study investigates aspects of the meaning of proverbs in the work of a Nigerian author, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It is contended that meanings of Nigerian proverbs can be worked out within the semantic, referential, ideational, stimulus-response, realist and contextual theories. Types of meaning and proverbs are addressed and situated within the two works. It is advanced that proverbs play significant roles in clarifying, exemplifying, underscoring and influencing communication .With the broadly analyzed proverbs, the study attempts to further demonstrate the vitality of semantics and pragmatics in negotiating meaning especially in a second language context. Proverbs are common features of conversational eloquence in many African cultures, especially in Nigeria. Such “wise sayings” are usually acquired and learnt from listening to the elders’ talk. Given the vintage position that the elders occupy in various African traditions as the human repository of communal or primordial wisdom, they are the masters of eloquence, rhetoric and meaning. They are the ones who know how to impregnate short expressions with vast meanings, implicating the proverb, “it is the elder’s mouth that determines a ripe kola nut”. Several definitions of the term “proverb” abound in literature. The central idea in the definitions is that a proverb is “an adage, saying, maxim, precept, saw or any synonym of such that expresses conventional truth”. From Things Fall Apart

The sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them p.6 Theory: Referential Type: Denotative/Connotative
Analysis: The proverb makes reference to a cosmic body, the sun, with a view to evoking its sense – that those who strive and work (by remaining standing) will benefit from the fruit of their work before those who depend on them (by kneeling or deriving succor from them). While the inference of discouraging dependency can be made, the message is mainly that those who do not face the challenges of life and work assiduously defying sunshine should satisfy themselves with the crumbs that fall from the table of the hardworking ones. The proverb discourages laziness and implies the need for everyone to be hard-working. If a child washed his hands, he could eat with kings.p.6 Theory: Realist Types: Denotative, thematic

Analysis: The proverb portrays the honor and dignity attributed to cleanliness and responsibility. It thematizes hands washing, a good character training and hygienic way of eating as a sine qua non to honor. We infer that if a person does the right thing at the right time, as the proverb entails good fortune, honor, reverence, esteem and credit will be his, just like eating together with kings. The pragmatic understanding of how really high the Nigerians rate their traditional rulers provides a further clue to the semantic import of the proverb. 3 When the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for a walk. p.9. Theory: Referential

Types: Collocative, Stylistic
Analysis: Reference is made to another cosmic body, the moon, in this proverb, as “shining” collocates with “the moon” and “cripple” collocates metaphorically with “walk”. The sense of the proverb lies in the cause-effect theory that if motivation is given, action arises. In essence, night is conventionally taken as a period of rest but in a situation where there is moon-light, not only the able-bodied feels the need to walk or work in the night but even the cripple does. Night is implied and not stated for stylistic purposes while “hungry”, a marked word that ordinarily does not apply to “walk”, is also used for stylistic effect. The underlining message...
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