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Introduction

Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, is essentially about the culture of the Igbo people and influence of colonialism on their lives. In the first part of the book, the readers are introduced to the life and culture of the Igbo people. The male protagonist, Okonkwo, is introduced. He is a noble and brave fighter in his village. The events following the introduction of the character illustrate the culture of the Igbo people, a process of spreading news among the villagers, the traditions or practices about death, crime and punishment, politics, social interactions, and family, among others. In the latter part of the novel, the lives of the Igbo people change because of colonization. Throughout the novel, readers find out how power and influence affect social dynamics and people’s way of life.

Author

Chinua Achebe was born and raised in Nigeria. Through English-instructed education, Achebe learned the language well and later on this enabled him to write Things Fall Apart in English instead of his native language. Achebe wrote the novel during the 1950s and it was released in 1959. His inspiration for writing a novel that portrayed Nigerian culture through the lives of the Igbo people was the novel written by Joyce Cary, “Mister Johnson,” which was set in Nigeria. Cary’s novel was critically acclaimed worldwide and Achebe thought that if a non-African writer could write a novel set in Nigeria, then it would be good for an African writer like him to write a novel and create something that represents African culture from an insider’s perspective. In addition, Achebe wanted to contribute to the growth of African literature. His novel, Things Fall Apart, has set a standard and pattern of African literature. Overall, the novel was Achebe’s attempt to make a mark in literature as well as to create a source of inspiration for African authors to write novels that represent their culture

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Main Characters

 

Okonkwo

 

Okonkwo is a hard-working and courageous man who perseveres enough so he can be a good person to not only for his family but for his village as well. However, his experience with his father and living in a patriarchal society prevents him from expressing himself.

Unoka

Unoka is Okonkwo’s father. He represents the kind of person who does not contribute anything for his family and society. Unoka is a very lazy person. He is not the kind of man who can be set as an example for Okonkwo.

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Nwoye

Nwoye is Okonkwo’s son, who lives in his father’s shadow. However, in the end, Nwoye finds his own way.

Mr. Brown

Mr. Brown is more of a symbolic character in the story. He represents the white men, who have colonized the villages of the Igbo people and committed harsh crimes.

Themes

The primary themes in the book include parenting and its influence on the traits, characteristics, and behavior of children, pride as one of the strongest sources of shame and weakness among men, and colonization and tyranny as the elements that tear communities apart. The relationship between Unoka and Okonkwo illustrate the effect of bad parenting on children; if a relationship between children and their parents are bad, they might grow up with a desire to become the opposite of who their parents are. On the other hand, the relationship between Okonkwo and Nwoye also illustrate the idea that strict parenting creates a gap between a parent and a child. In the story, Okonkwo’s pride made him leave his family and his village, and in the end, the shame he felt for doing so led to his demise. The third theme in the novel, which is related to colonization, represents how invading the territories of people and forcing them to accept religion and politics creates chaos. In the novel, Achebe shows how colonization and tyranny change people and societies. Before the white men invaded the Igbo villages, the people were already in conflict against each other. Murder in the villages has caused discord among members of the different tribes. When the white men came, they worsened the situation because they created a bigger gap between the people. For example, some Igbo people betrayed their cohabitants and cooperated with the white men, which eventually led to the deaths of many people from the tribe.

Evaluation

Overall, Things Fall Apart is a novel that consists of the important messages that show how social and political interactions affect people. Although a process of colonization is discussed in the novel, the situation is very relevant nowadays, because we still see that the issue of tyranny is present around the world, especially in the Middle East. Rapid Westernization could also be considered as colonization because culture of many countries is affected by the Western culture. Moreover, Things Fall Apart represents a rich culture, which increases awareness among readers and raises cultural sensitivity. 

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