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Chinua Achebe's, Things Fall Apart is a poignant novel about the Igbo of Southern Nigeria. An unfamiliar audience is transported to the "exotic" world of traditional African society. Achebe does not intend to write an ethnographic account of Igbo life. Although, many cultural and social aspects of the Ibo are revealed, the final message is much stronger. Achebe is attempting to remind his people as well as all people about the Igbo past and its cultural value which posses much cultural value. The breakdown of Igbo society is that message. Colonialism can be seen as the floodgate that opened this loss of culture and inferiority that "other" peoples are subjected to. There are a few initial hints towards the beginning of the novel that play an allegorical role in depicting the advent of colonialism. Colonialism is introduced towards the end of the novel but holds the last impression and gives one a wake-up call to the degradation of non-western cultures by Western culture. The very last sentence epitomizes this degradation. "He [District Commissioner] had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger". The District Commissioner embodies the typical role of the rugged Imperialist who finds it obligatory to tame these "savage" peoples. The "duty" is not only to practice oneself but also to teach all Westerners to tame as well. This is revealed in his hopes of writing a book.
Colonialism and the struggle to maintain tradition are the main themes of the novel, but the audience is introduced to many themes regarding traditional African
society. Masculinity, religion, social interaction, marriage, folklore/proverbs all play introductory roles to the final revealing of colonialism. These aspects are pivotal to the novel and must be explore in depth. These traditional African institutions are fundamentals that must be understood and respected. The colonizers had very little respect for Igbo culture and barred it off as primitive and satanic. Igbo culture gives the reader a basis to interpret Igbo ideals as well as the community's dealing with the missionaries at the end. Achebe does portray some objectionable aspects of Igbo society that would explain why some of the community members might find a scapegoat or a hopeful option within the missionary culture. The missionaries held enticing rewards for new converts and were usually quite clever and diplomatic in attracting converts. These contributing factors led everything to "fall apart."
Okonkwo is the main character in this story. He feels he needs to be the embodiment of the Igbo male. Okonkwo is always on a conscious effort to show that he is a strong man and not an agbala (woman) like his father, Unoka. Okonkwo made every attempt to be unlike his father. All Okonkwo could feel for his father was shame. Achebe uses a sort of irony in describing the relationship between Unoka and Okonkwo. "When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavily in debt. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him." Those were all superficial flaws and Achebe seems to add some humor into the situation. Okonkwo was all too consumed by status that he lost all respect for his father. One central aspect of Igbo society is respect for elders. That respect is a sign of manliness and yet Okonkwo is so disillusioned that he runs towards the opposite direction.
Okonkwo is an extreme case of trying to prove himself. He was respected in the community despite the adversities he felt his father had put in his way. Okonkwo was a hard working and determined man. Despite the fact that he had no inheritance he soared to become one of the prominent members of society. Okonkwo rose to his position because of his fear for failure and his need to prove his masculinity. He was quite harsh and he equated this harsh and stoic persona with masculinity. "His [Okonkwo's] wives, especially the youngest lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness." These aspects were not masculine for the rest of the tribe. Okonkwo feared weakness more than he feared anything else. He did everything in his power to prove to others that he was capable. His rise in the community is an obvious example for his inner need to rise above. Okonkwo toiled at his fields and made a proper name for himself. He had gained the respect of higher men in his community. Okonkwo went to ask Nwakibie, a prosperous man for yam seeds and Okonkwo would sharecrop them. Nwakibie gave Okonkwo double the seeds he was expecting. When the harvest failed for everybody Okonkwo felt he had failed despite the fact that this failure was not in his control. Achebe alludes to the end of the novel when
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Names referenced in this essay
Okonkwo, Nwoye, Umofia, Ikemefuna, Uchendu, Obierika, before…You, Unoka, Ogbuefi Ezeudu,
Organizations included in this essay
Igbo society, African Society, African court,
Locations mentioned in this paper
Mbanta, New York, the consequence, Nigeria, sandy beach,
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Keywords included in this term paper
Okonkwo, Achebe, Igbo, missionaries, colonialism, society, Chinua Achebe, Igbo culture, pride, Igbo people, community, this day, locusts, Primitive Tribes, traditional, African, masculinity, extended family, Christianity, harsh, his way, his people, New Yam Festival, other white, fall apart, hidden way, Western culture, Oracle, his master, anything else, Southern Nigeria, downward spiral, compassion, mutually exclusive, evil spirit, hard working, moral dilemma, a woman, colonial powers, tree branch, evil forest, social interaction, family relationship, sandy beach, holy spirit, a story, Western powers, civil wars, Anchor Books, Latin America,