Achebe introduces proverbs and folklores in his novels thinking that such a technique would provide solution to several problems of day-to-day life. So folklore which is an important feature of the Ibo culture, finds ample place in his novels and he makes his characters use folklore to illustrate moral values and ancestral traditions of Ibo society.
The story of the little bird Nza occurs both in Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God. It brings home the fact that a man should never provoke his fate. He should know where to draw a line of limit in his pursuit of power. The same wisdom is evident in the story of the bird Enekenti-Oba and the story of the wrestler.
Among the Ibos an excellent wrestler is one who wins not only in the human world but also in the World of Spirits. Thus, Okonkwo's ability at wrestling is aptly compared to that of "the founder of the town" who according to folktale, "engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights."
The Didactic Animal Tale—The didactic animal tale appears in almost all Achebe's novels. In Things Fall Apart, the tales of the wily tortoise expose the wicked nature of beings, and the story of the mother kite shows the folly of the people of Abame. Such tales also point out indifference and inconsiderateness of human beings in No Longer at Ease, and in the same novel the story of the leopardess illustrates the ill effects of greed (53).
Men's and women's stories illustrate male and female values. While Okonkwo's stories exemplify warfare and violence in order to inculcate courage in children, Ekwefi's stories of the mosquito, Obiageli's unending chain tale are meant for entertainment.
Legends—Legend is one of the many elements that lend fascination to Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God. Several of them concern the origin of Ulu, the legend of Idemili, the legends of Egunegwu. These are a few of the many legends mentioned. Since market is important in the Ibo society, market legends are also mentioned. The popularity of the legends shows that the traditions of the clan are kept alive.
Ceremonies—The elaborate description of various ceremonies gives us a chance to have a closer look at the well-developed symbolic view of religion in ancient societies. They also lend charm to the narrative as do the stars to the night sky. Some interesting ceremonies include the appearance and proceedings of the Egunegwu, the first coming of Ulu, the Idemili festival. The ceremony of Akuluhro and the ceremony of Ogbazulubodo.
Proverbial wisdom and Achebe's style—Another element that contributes to the success of Achebe's fictional art is his subtle use of English to suit the African sensibility Ezeulu's speech to Oduche has a distinct African style.
"I want one of my sons to join these people and be my eye there. If there is nothing in it you will come back. But if there is something there you will bring home my share. The world is like a mask dancing. If you want to see it well you do not stand in one place. My spirit tells me that those who do not befriend the white man today will be doing it tomorrow."
Customs—An example of Achebe's use of customs appears in the description of the treatment given to a guest. Upon entering a friend's Obi, a guest is seated, either on a goatskin mat or on an earthen stool. Then he is given a piece of chalk with which he draws his emblem on the floor and paints his toe or face the bond of goodwill is complete with the passing of the Kola around, and sharing its contents.
The description of Okonkwo's obi and shrine, Ezeulu's shrine tells us of their architecture. Simultaneously, there are human sacrifices, mutilation of a diseased Ogbanje child, the Osu practice, the belief in juju medicine, the belief in reincarnation, the spirit possession, the belief in the divinity of a python, the belief of running over a dog for good luck and the taboo of running over a duck, cast a shadow on the culture of the society closely aligned to oratory are the salutation names. The naming system is important to the Ibos. Its importance is especially evident in Ekwefi's attempts to save the children by the name she gives, nine die before one daughter Ezinma survives. She names the children in such a way as to break the cycle of Ogbanje children. A few were Onwumbiko, "Death, I implore you," Ozoemena, may it not happen again, "and finally Onwumna, Death may please himself."
The use of idioms lends Achebe's language and style a native flavour and force. Besides giving us a close and convincing picture of a society in transition, this technique helps his characters sound natural while speaking an alien tongue. A few such idioms deserve our attention.
References to Nature—Frequent references to flora and fauna imply the proximity of the Ibos to nature. Here are examples: —
From Things Fall Apart : Okonkwo's fame had grown like a "bush-fire in the harmattan", and he "drank palm wine from morning till night and his eyes were red and fierce like the eyes of a rat when it was caught by the tail and dashed against the floor." "He felt like a drunken giant walking with the limbs of a mosquito." "Okonkwo felt as if he had been cast out of his clan like a fish onto a dry sandy beach, Panting", "Obierika house is as busy as an ant hill", "The earth burned like hot coals."
Yam is also used as a metaphor for manliness, as in "Yam the king of crops was a man's crop", and "Yam stood for manliness, and he could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed", "Ikemefuna grew rapidly like a Yam tendril in the rainy season." Similarly Kola symbolizes prosperity: "He who brings Kola brings life."
All the above elements not only lend fascination to Things Fall Apart but also contribute to Achebe's success as a great novelist.