Written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart novel focused on Nigerian society issues before and after colonization period in the 19th century. Achebe describes the process of expansion and propagation of white culture in Nigeria during that time. He shows how the traditions and local culture are changing and in some cases are entirely depicted. In this novel, the author describes the tragedy of real leaders and their community as well as underlines traditions followed by Nigerians for many years which are completely banned by whites. However, he emphasized that not all traditions and beliefs of his people were civilized and moral, but the complete destruction by colonists was not a good for the society.
The novel is divided into three parts and tells the story of Ibo tribe and its leader Okonkwo. In the first part, the leader’s family and relationships described, as well as different traditions society followed for hundreds of years. In the second and third parts, we see how British colonists expansion influences on the community and relationships inside it.
In the novel, the Ibo society is described as civilized one with solid morals, stable religion, and safe environment, guided by strong leaders who are responsible for the future. And while reading, you are coming to the conclusion that it is not a civilized society. For instance, Nwoye, a male member of the community disagrees with the culture and tradition when he hears infant crying in the Evil Forest: tribe throws the second twin baby to the forest just because they are twins:
“Nwoye had felt for the first time a snapping inside him like the one he now felt. They were returning home with baskets of yams from a distant farm across the stream when they heard the voice of an infant crying in the thick forest.” (Achebe,61)
He perceives that it is not correct to throw a healthy child and this tradition in a modern world is entirely inhumane for any culture. Throwing a child, no matter if it is twin or not, interferes with human values, and by mentioning that tradition author emphasizes that Ibo tribe is not a civilized society. It is worth mentioning that according to their practices man can have more than one wife, man always a leader of the family and family violence which is widely practiced helps author to provide more support for the fact that Ibo society is uncivilized:
“She was Okonkwo’s second wife Ekwefi, whom he nearly shot. “(Achebe, 39)
As you see from the quote, Okonkwo, the main character, has more than one wife and additionally author underlines family violence which is both corrupt practices. It is worth mentioning that Oknonkwo had three wives and ten children. The relationships between men and women in the tribe are aimed to show us that the traditions of Ibo community are not civilized and need a change. They are leading main characters to the tragedy when they are failing to change with the changing world.
Okonkwo is one of the main characters of this novel; he possesses braveness and leadership and works hard to be opposite to his father, Unoka. He doesn’t want to fall his father’s path and known to be the leader of the village, the hardest working person who fight the weaknesses and afraid of failures. Such an attitude to the life and relationships, however, leads him to the tragic end.
The first time we see his weakness, when he kills Ikemefuna, his fifteen years old foster son, whom he took to his family after his father killed a woman from another village. He does so because he is afraid to be considered as a weak person. He loves Ikemefuna, but because of Oracle of Umuofia’s pronounces that the child must be killed, he follows that violent path. The oldest member of the tribe warned Okonkwo that this would be like a murder of his own child and at the end, he feels sorrow about his son’s death, and failures start to follow him. So, after that, things become wrong for Okonkwo; his beloved daughter Ezinma becomes ill, and during Ezeudu’s funeral salute – he kills Ezeudu’s son.
As a result, he and his family sent to exile for seven years to pray gods and get forgiveness.
During his absence, white colonists are starting to influence on the tribe and dispensing Christianity as the main religion of the Ibo society, resulting in a new government election. And after seven years Okonkwo returns to his tribe and find his people under the leadership of white colonists. He is trying to fight colonists but being betrayed by his men he finds out that no one in his tribe wants to resist colonists. Being a leader for many years, a warrior by nature he feels weak and unable to fight white people, so when white government representatives come to his house to take him to the court, they find Okonkwo dead. He committed suicide because he was not able to fight against them.
As you see the influence of colonization leads Nigerians to loss of their culture and traditions followed for many years. And Chinua Achebe is known to be one of the most prominent writers who tried to showcase the culture Europeans had banned for many years. The Things Fall Apart novel is aimed to provide not only information about lost cultural opportunities but also give Nigerians the real push to decolonize society and revive language and its traditions. However, not all traditions of past society should be followed. As it is shown in the novel some of they are not human, they are more likely destructive. Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is known to be one of the most read African books ever published and right now they are included in educational program of the US, European and African students.
Achebe, C. (1994). Things fall apart. New York: Anchor Books.
Rhoads, Diana Akers. “Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.” African Studies Review, vol. 36, no. 2, 1993, pp. 61–72. www.jstor.org/stable/524733.
Widjaja, M. (2016). igboguide.org. [online] igboguide.org. Available at: https://www.igboguide.org/ [Accessed 28 Nov. 2016].