“Things Fall Apart” (1958) is a famous novel by Chinua Achebe (1930 – 2013). The novel tells the story of African society. The title is taken from W. B. Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming”.
The word “Nneka” in the language of the Igbo is “Mother is Supreme”. Okonkwo is the protagonist of the novel. He had killed accidentally and unintentionally the young son of Ezeudu, a famous leader of the clan. For this, he had to flee from his own land Umuofia to his mother’s homeland, Mbanta.
Okonkwo’s maternal uncle, Uchendu received him and his family in Mbanta. Observing that Okonkwo was heartbroken and frustrated, Uchendu called all his sons and daughters and Okonkwo with a view to exhorting Okonkwo. He told them that they all knew that a man was the head of the family, and his wives follow his order. A child belonged to its father and his family and not to its mother and her family. A man belonged to his fatherland, not to his motherland.
Yet they said Nneka “Mother is Supreme”. Because it was true that a child belonged to its father. But when a father beat his child, it sought sympathy in its mother’s hut. Likewise, a man belonged to his fatherland when things were good. But when there was sorrow and bitterness, he found refuge in his motherland. His mother protected him.
Click here for more notes on novels
Conclusion: In a nutshell, Okonkwo’s mother protected him when he had to flee from his fatherland. So, in his case, the adage proved true- Mother is Supreme.