Chinua Achebe's Masterpiece "Things Fall Apart"

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“Things Fall Apart”, published in 1959, was sold over two million times in the United States and over eight million times worldwide. “Chinua Achebe is one of the great intellectual and ethical figures of our time,” says Leon Botstein, President of the Bard College. (Back of the Book) Certainly, the novel shows ethnical issues among tribes, which were evoked at the time of colonialism. Umuofia, an Ibo tribe in Africa, which had its unique language, its dignified culture and a value system that had continued for many years as they trace back into their ancestry.

Okonkwo, the protagonist of the novel, represents the uniqueness of the culture; its best and worst with his own rises and falls, which unfortunately ends with death. Things Fall Apart deals with the social and psychological conflicts that were created by the invasion of the white men and their own culture. Achebe particularly shows the destruction of the African tribes and the negative aspects that were arising, due to the imposition of the western cultures.

The Ibo people had their own unique culture, in which they truly believed in. Every tribe in Africa had their own culture, their own beliefs and languages.

The villages were never the same, for example Umuofia, the village of Okonkwo. Umuofia’s inhabitants believed in the chi, or personal god. It determined much of a person’s destiny and character. “When a man says yes his chi says yes also” (page 27). But at the same time, one did not challenge his or her chi.

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The Ibo religion had a tendency to symbolize numerous gods. They had a god for every different natural phenomenon that occurred. They also valued greatness and courage. The main character Okonkwo, obsessed with greatness, was honoured by the tribe.

He was a great wrestler and had gotten many titles at a young age, which reflected his power and his will to fight. Weak people were not welcomed. ” They were mostly the kind of people that were called efulefu, worthless, empty men. ” (p. 143) The tribe hold tight to these beliefs and every man therefore tried to reach greatness, by getting titles. “Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten” (p. 7). They also had the ilo, the place where all important ceremonies are held. This tribe was unique. It was pure, since no foreigner lived there.

Most of them did not even see a white man. At the time when the Westerners came to Umuofia, they knew that changes are going to occur, but were not aware of the danger. Showing both kindness and strong belief in their own religion, the missionaries succeeded in converting the Africans little by little into Christianity. They managed to change the perspectives of the natives and moved them slowly away from their original religion and beliefs. Even though the natives knew that this change is not to be denied, they did not really take any action against it, since they did not realize the dangerous situation for them and their culture.

“The elders consulted their Oracle and it told them that the strange men would break their clan and spread destruction among them. ” (p. 138) Okonkwo was the only one who was aware of the danger that the interaction would bring with it. First, when his own tribe particularly was not affected by the whites he said,” They were fools; they had been warned that danger was ahead. They should have armed themselves with their guns and their machetes even when they went to market. ” (p. 140) But this is exactly the tragedy that Okonkwo had to face with his own tribe. They knew what was going on but they did too little to resist against it.

“The missionaries had come to Umuofia. They had built there church there, won a handful of converts and were already sending evangelists to the surrounding towns and villages. That was a source of great sorrow to the leaders of the clan; but many of them believed that the strange faith and white man’s god would not last. ” (p. 143) When the people of Umuofia started to realize the whole situation, destruction had already come. In a tribal society, the most important thing is the unity of the members, the absolute obedience to the ruling of the elders and the gods and the goddess.

This is lost when some of them get attracted to missionaries who arrive and teach them the western way of life, like the twins and the son of Okonkwo, Nwoye. “Nwoye did not fully understand. But he was happy to leave his father” (Page 152). Many people got converted into Christianity, since their African culture was really strict and rules were to follow precisely. If you do not follow the rules, or if you are something or someone that is said to be osu, the outcast, or said to be damned by the gods and goddess of the tribe, you had no rights and were excluded of the village.

For example, twins were not allowed in the Umuofian culture. Unfortunately, these lead to an increasing openness to the western thoughts and religion and eventually allowed the Europeans to exploit and make the Africans weak. When Okonkwo was sent to exile, he heard about all this, but he did not think it will truly happen. It was only after his return, when he realized that everything had changed. People did not truly believe in their culture anymore and it was not like what he wanted it to be.

The Westerners had destroyed everything that was valuable for him. But he wanted to fight against them. He was not willing to give up. “I shall fight alone if I choose” (Page 201). He symbolizes the tribe, because as he rises and falls, the village has its ups and downs, too. At the end it is a tragedy that he commits suicide, but he dies in a martyr death. He kills himself, because he sees the deterioration of his village, and he sees that no one reacts to it; therefore he wants the people to realize the danger and wants them not to give their unique culture.

He would rather die in disgrace than seeing his culture fall apart. And that is what happens at the end. His tribe realized too late that their culture had been torn apart by the Westerners. The novel shows the destruction of an African tribe due to the imposition of the Western people. It shows how bad it can be to convert people to another culture, forcing them to leave their own behind. It destroys their uniqueness and all their beliefs. They do not know what is right and what is wrong anymore, since foreign people with foreign believes tell them what to do.

The ones that impose do not understand about the values of the native culture and what they mean to the people. Looking at Okonkwo, it is a tragic story that should open our eyes and make us start realizing that no one should try to force another culture or an individual to change their beliefs and. Because everyone has their own beliefs and own culture that they follow and that they appreciate. As a result, we shall not break the peace and we shall not do something that will harm others, which will eventually lead to violence and destruction of one’s culture.

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Chinua Achebe's Masterpiece "Things Fall Apart". (2017, Dec 19). Retrieved from

Chinua Achebe's Masterpiece "Things Fall Apart"
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