Things Fall Apart: An Intricate Portrait of the Ibo Culture

            The novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe creates a powerful story that paints an intricate portrait of the Ibo culture in Africa. The author analyzes the destruction of African culture in Nigeria after the appearance of the "white man.” Achebe tells the story of a Nigerian man, Okonkwo, who confronts English colonial powers and struggles to save his culture and identity from the colonization of the Europeans. Although the novel is "unique and richly African, at the same time it reveals Achebe's keen awareness of the human qualities common to men of all time and places” (back cover). The author chooses to convey this story in a novel form, as opposed to simply spewing the story in impersonal paragraphs, in order to provide a detailed and thorough understanding of the Ibo culture. This decision allows him to use effective narrative devices, such as symbolism, narrative irony and foreshadowing, which projects an elaborate and meaningful presentation of the story by adding interest and contributing to the many themes of the novel. .

             Achebe uses symbolism, with the sharing of the kola nut amongst clansman. This symbol represents peace and goodwill between the tribe. The practice diffuses tension felt between clansmen that may otherwise turn violent. For example, when a neighbour visits Unoka, Okonkwo's father, early in the novel to collect a debt he does not immediately address the debt when he enters Unoka's house. Instead, the two men first share a kola nut (6). The clansman emphasize, through this custom, the common interests and culture that they share while diminishing any discomfort or uneasiness felt between the two men. The ritual also contributes to the theme of Ibo traditions and enriches the readers understanding of the profound culture of the Ibo people. Another example of kola nut sharing, or lack thereof, is when Okonkwo offers the kola nut to the priest after beating his wife during the week of peace.

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