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Things Fall Apart Chapter 24.5
Okonkwo sat in his obi, his lips wet with palm-wine. His mind went to his lost clan, a clan so weak it couldn’t bother to fight for itself. After all, he thought, shame is not felt by a madman the same as it is felt by his brothers. The white men were the tumba flies laying eggs in Umofia’s skin, and it is I who must suffer, thought Okonkwo. His kinsmen allowed them to burrow deeper and chose not to fight. In the deepest pit of his stomach the coals of his despair begin to glimmer and flare in rage. Okonkwo clenched his fists and spoke to no one, “We must remember a person deceased when one does not know how to behave.” Perhaps the entire clan would listen better if he were dead. Instead they use a will like his father as guidance for how to treat the white men. Okonkwo hurled an empty palm-wine bottle at the wall and sneered at the crash, watching as each piece of glass fell apart from the once whole bottle.
Okonkwo reached for a new bottle when a slight knock on the door startled him. The flame in his stomach roared so high it burned the back of his throat. “Nwoye?”
Nwoye stood in the door of his father’s obi, a sad smile on his face. He was dressed in clothes like the white mans, his hair was combed and he wore hard shoes on his feet. “Okonkwo, it’s good to see you.”
Okonkwo scoffed and crossed his arms. He felt the urge to shove a stone through Nwoye’s cheeks and watch the blood dribble out. “I am not pleased to see you. You are a shame to your father’s land. Do you seek refugee here?” Okonkwo spat at Nwoye’s feet. “This father does not have a son named Nwoye. Leave.”
The two stared at each other for a matter of minutes, before Okonkwo spat at the boy’s feet once more. He detested his femininity, his weakness the very essence of his own father that leaked out of his skin.
“Staying idle causes evil deeds.” Okonkwo murmured under his breath.
Nwoye shuffled his feet, blatantly showing that his father still intimidated him. “I would never cause evil.”
Okonkwo snorted. “You left your family for strangers ruining our land. You left your culture and your ancestors. You’re worse than an osu now.”
Nwoye grimaced. “Father wants me to make peace with you.”
Okonkwo scowled. “You have no father.”
“God is my father.”
“Chukwu is God and no one else!” Okonkwo roared. “How are you so ignorant of your own people? These pests have educated you in their own ignorance!” Okonkwo could no longer speak; he could no longer breathe, he no longer wanted to. It was as if the King of Snakes himself was around his neck, squeezing his will to live with every passing second. How could this agbala think to question him?
The tension in the air was thick and Nwoye lost all focus. Nwoye clenched his fists and refused to give in to his need to tremble with fear. He could not prove his fathers assumed femininity of him. He was determined to leave with his father knowing he’d made a mistake for losing him as a son.
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Nwoye delivered, trembling. “You never encouraged me.”
“There was nothing to encourage. You were lazy and weak. You resembled your grandfather. I have no time for people like you.”
“A man tormented by the guilt of murder will be a fugitive till death; let no one support him.” Nwoye recited. “How is your conscious?”
“I who am earthworm break the ground without guilt.” Okonkwo stated matter-of-factly. “I did as I was supposed to. The Oracle...”
“The Oracle!” Nwoye shouted, forgetting his fear. “How can you follow something so evil? It killed my brother! He did nothing wrong and yet you killed him!”
Okonkwo stood up with steam protruding from his nostrils. “A person should not call his father a coward. Much less when his own son is most cowardice of them all.”
“I am no coward!” Nwoye cried. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? You see a live banana tree and only see death! You see a feast and only see what was not made! You see a celebration and only think of work! You will sit here and drink, you will sit here and wallow in your own self-pity and not even the clearest of streams will make you see that your fear of everything makes you the biggest coward of all?”
Nwoye took a deep breath and looked deep in his father’s eyes. For the first time Okonkwo was very small to him. Nwoye felt like the Sky and his father the Earth, desperate for rain. Nwoye was finally the man. He knelt down on one knee and came so close to his father’s face that he could count the wrinkles on his forehead, he could see that he had aged a thousand years since the last time he saw him.
“Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that's the end of them.” Nwoye whispered carefully, a smirk on his face. “Think of yourself as the wicked.” With those final words, Nwoye brushed off his knees and turned away with a new spring in his walk, much like Okonkwo’s.
Okonkwo’s rage subsided. He was numb. His own tongue had betrayed him, not allowing him to slice his son into his place. What man was he, to lose his son, lose his clan and lose ability to defend his ancestors through proverbs? Even his own father could do that. Failure soaked through Okonkwo’s core, as he eyed the rope that lay amongst the broken shards of glass on the floor.