Achebe the Orator. The Art of Persuasion in Chinua Achebe's by Chinwe Christiana Okechukwu

By Chinwe Christiana Okechukwu

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Achebe has already exposed to the reader the people's way of expiating sacrilege. When Okonkwo commits a minor offense of disturbing the Week of Peace, he is given a minor punishment of taking sacrifices to the shrine of Ani, whom he has offended. When he commits manslaughter, he not only has to flee the society for seven years, but his house and property are also burned to cleanse the land of the pollution his crime has produced. This big offense attracts a big punishment. Desecrating an egwugwu is construed as the murder of the spirit of the ancestors.

The two pieces of oratory differ in the language used by the orators in the novel, the ultimate terms invoked, and the topoi chosen to support the premises for persuasion. The oratory and its delivery, in Part One, expose Achebe's view of the state of the clan before it came in contact with the alien culture. As Perelman and OlbrechtsTyteca assert, the audience is the factor that makes oratory successful. 28 The first oratorical occasion in the novel shows a homogenous and united clan. Things are predictable.

Nobody questions why Umuofia should demand two heads in place of one. Everybody knows that it is the normal course of action. As Weaver rightly observes, these uncontested terms seem to attract contest but do not do so in their own contexts. The orator is at liberty to use them when the premises they represent are accepted by all. 36 The Umuofia of this period is such an audience. Ogbuefi Ezeugo, just as the orators in classical times, the times of Things Fall Apart 29 Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian of whom Weaver writes in his essay, "The Spaciousness of Old Rhetoric," uses the "uncontested" terms because he knows his audience and is sure of its composition.

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