Proverbs Fall Apart

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Proverbs Fall Apart Proverbs were a very important part of the Ibo culture. Wisdom and advice is held within the short, yet meaningful phrases. The proverbs stood as a microcosm for the their culture and their views on life. But as the white men came into Umuofia, they shook the Ibo until their culture fell apart. Life as they knew it disappeared and many of the Ibo proverbs no longer held true.

The Ibo said that "the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them" (8). Here, Unoka was speaking about his debts. He is saying that he will repay his debts in order from greatest to least amount of value; those who loaned Unoka more will have their debts paid off first. It also shows in the Ibo culture that those who are greater will get more glory or recognition than those who follow in their shadows.

This was shown in the Ibo culture in many ways. Great men, leaders, and elders were rewarded with titles, power, and respect. This changed, however, once the white men arrived in Umuofia and created a new government for the Ibo. Men who were strong and stood up for what they believed were taken away or made examples of by killing them. Those who kneeled quietly in the white man's shadows and cooperated with them, however, were not harmed.

Another proverb used by the Ibo was that "A man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness" (19). An Ibo man who respected his elders and leaders could learn much from them. He also continued the tradition of respecting great men so that he too would be respected. Things were different, once again, when the white men came. The whites harassed Ibo men who respected the great people in their culture. If they respected the white men, their clan shunned them as they did to the outcasts.

A third proverb practiced in the Ibo culture was "when mother-cow is chewing grass its young ones watch its mouth" (70). This means that the young learn from example by observing the old. This was evident in the Ibo culture where children were raised with the beliefs and values of their parents and clan. This, too, changed when the white men arrived. Young generations were taught by the whites and raised with their understanding of the world. The whites controlled the government, economy, social atmosphere, and religion of the Ibo. Much of the Ibo culture was lost and forgotten as generations passed.

The Ibo said that, "When a man says yes his chi says yes also" (27). This means that a man can shape his destiny if he works towards it. This was shown in the Ibo culture when Okonkwo worked his way up from poverty to be one of the lords of the clan. "Okonkwo said yes very strongly; so his chi agreed" (27). Again, this all changed when the white men came to Umuofia. Men could no longer shape their futures without the white men intervening. As Okonkwo later realized, "A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi... The saying of elders was not true"¦ Here was a man whose chi said nay despite his own affirmation." By challenging the Ibo proverbs, the white men challenged the Ibo way of life. Without their proverbs, the Ibo were left lost and without direction. Future generations were not taught about their culture through the proverbs, and slowly the Ibo culture disappeared.