Md. Emran Hossain Murad : Do we come to know any story without any source? We know the stories of “The Cowboy and the Tiger”, “Two Friends and the Bear” or “The Old Man and the Golden Eggs”. Where have we got them? Have someone thought out and created them? Or, have they come into one’s mind while one was sleeping? If so, why cannot we create much more interesting new stories that might teach our children a new morale?
Why cannot we think out some more effective proverbs and sayings to support our points when we speak? Or, why cannot we dream of flagrant flowers of different varieties, unthinkably beautiful girls and women, any new kind of precious metal unthinkably valuable, etc. of which we have not got any idea before? Perhaps, we cannot think of any new kinds of objects, stories, beauties of which we do not have got any impression or idea beforehand. Like an empiricist and on the basis of major happenings in his Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe asserts that ‘There is no story that is not true’ in the fifteenth chapter of the novel.
When a child is born, its mind is in its first stage. It is a “tabula rasa”, an “empty cabinet” “white paper”, without any ideas. If so, how does it come to be furnished? Where do we get our knowledge from? John Locke answers in one word- “experience”. To a empiricist like him, all our knowledge is founded on, and ultimately derived from “experience”.
Experience comes from two sources – sensation and reflection. Through sensation, the mind is furnished with sensible qualities. Reflection is internal senses, which supplies the mind with ideas of its own operation, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing. When we come across with objects, we get sense data such as colour, taste, smell, etc. of the objects. These are all sensation. The primary capacity of the mind is intellectual ability to receive the impressions made on it. By idea, the rationalists mean whatsoever the mind directly apprehends, or which is the immediate object of perception, thought or understanding.
According to John Locke, ideas are of two kinds- simple and complex or compound. The ideas, which we get through sensation directly, are called simple ideas. We receive the simple ideas through impression. Our mind has the power to repeat, compare and combine simple ideas in endless variety, and thus to make at please new complex ideas. Some simple ideas enter our mind through one sense only; e.g. ideas of colour, sound, taste, heat, cold, solidity; some other conveyed into the mind by more senses than one, e.g. space or extension, figure, rest or motion that enter through both sight and touch. Some are received by reflection only, the mind observes its own operations on those ideas it already has, and gets others in this way, that is, it notices its operations of perception, retention and recall in memory, discerning, comparing, compounding, and abstracting. Some ideas, finally, we receive through but sensation and reflection- among these are pleasure and pain or uneasiness, power, existence, unity, and duration.
According to Locke, simple ideas are our materials of knowledge. All knowledge consists of simple ideas. Generally, mind can form complex ideas in three ways- a) by combining the simple ideas, such as the world, beauty, men, b) by making relation of one simple or complex idea with another simple or complex idea, such as father and son, students and teachers, husband and wife, c) mind can form universal idea by distinguishing a new idea from the association of ideas. Snow, milk, chalk- from these simple ideas we can get the idea of whiteness.
Later on George Berkeley updates Locke’s theory by saying that experience is not due to one, rather it is the consequence of some external activities, and all sensation and experience are dependent on God.
David Hume says, all we can know are our own impressions. We find no impressions that justify the assumption of any kind of substance. Cause and effect can mean nothing more than a regular succession of ideas. Metaphysics, theology, and natural science cannot yield universal and necessary knowledge. We can know only what we experience and we can reach only probability in this field.
In Things Fall Apart, the idea that ‘There is no story that is not true’ is intertwined. Okonkwo, the protagonist fears that he might experience the same unlucky and shameful life and death as his father. “His whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness…. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father”. To escape that fate he does everything possible for himself, he tries ‘to hate everything his father Unoka had loved’. He tries to overcome the fear. He is determined to do great things in spite that his chi was not made for good and great things. He does the opposite things his father did. However, finally he resembles his father being banished from his clan, and dying the same shameful death as his father.
Another indication of the things that becomes true mentioned in the novel is the warning for Okonkwo by Obierika ‘The boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death’. However, Okonkwo bears his hand in killing the boy, Ikemefuna in order not to be proved weak that was his father. And ultimately he falls into the trap Obierika warns him.
Among the crowd of wrestling match, Ekwefi meets Chielo, the priestess of agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. She ask her about Ezinma, the only living child of Ezinma whose all children but the latter died. She replies ‘…she has come to stay’. Through the novel, we see that Ezinma does not die in spite of her being about to die for several times.
Most important of all, Obierika’s eldest brother’s comment ‘…what is good in one place is bad in another place’, Okonkwo’s comment ‘I have even heard that in some tribes man’s children belong to his wife and her family, Machi’s comment comment ‘You might as well say that the woman lies on top of the man when they are making the children, and Obierika’s comment ‘It is like the story of white men who, they say, are white like this piece of chalk’ in chapter 8 prove that all stories men have in their society must have their realistic truth.
Since man cannot think of the things of which he has no previous impression and the story of white men in the novel proves to be true in chapter fifteen and especially physically in chapter sixteen, it is evident that all stories are based on facts, and there remains no story that is not true.