The book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe helps in advancing students’ knowledge by introducing them with the contents of the canonical texts. The first four chapters of this novel reflect on the historical contexts by covering Achebe’s thoughts considering the role of Christianization and colonialism. The novel’s attitude is inspired by the writer’s schooling, which was immensely inspired by the multicultural environment fostered by the colonialists. In chapter one, Okonkwo, the protagonist, is introduced as a great man of the Igbo tribe. During his youthful age, he became famous by defeating Amilinze, a great wrestler. He is a formidable and furious creature with frightening appearance. He stammers and gets angrier, and this makes him use his powerful fists to settle the score. He bears hot temper and has no time for the weak men. He is a true replicate of his own father. In this chapter, Achebe also describes the Igbo customs, traditions and beliefs by giving a sensitive balanced portrait of Igbo culture as a true African tribal culture that was eventually destroyed by the whites.
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In chapter two, Okwonko is portrayed as a great leader. The community chooses him as the emissary to go and negotiate on their behalf. He is depicted as a person who rules like a tyrant, who fears failure, and a hard worker, who actually hates the memory of his lazy father. This chapter reflects the true picture of the Igbo community. Through this chapter, the readers learn that the Igbo community, unlike other communities, is ruled by the general assembly of men who select Okonkwo as their emissary. In chapter three, Okonkwo’s father Unoka appears. He goes up the hills to find out why he always had a miserable harvest. In chapter four, the author depicts Okonkwo’s character by his disregard of the peaceful week, during which he hurled insults to the less fortunate. He is also reported having battered his younger wife who failed to cook for him. He views any lenient and tender emotions as too weak and feminine. His culture remains patriarch to any other and bears no restraint. He is a man who will not relent before achieving what he is up to, and this is what makes him a famous man of the Igbo society. Chapter five reflects Okonkwo’s family and the societal treatment of women. Okonkwo’s family leaves in fear despites all the three wives and children loving each other and co-existing happily. Okonkwo’s harsh character is depicted by beating his wife, who cuts the banana leaves to wrap yams during the bumper harvest celebrations.
Between the sixth and tenth chapters, the way of life in the Igbo community is described. Chapter seven depicts the retrogressive culture of this community. The village elders decide that time has come to kill Ikemefuna, a boy adopted by Okonkwo. Okonkwo does not believe in weakness and kills Ikemefuna by himself. In chapter eight, Christianity is introduced as a white man enters the Umuofia. First, the author talks of how the whites entered the kingdom by first sending their scouts to spy the area. In the eighth and ninth chapters, Okonkwo, whose character is known to be unshaken or unaffected by anything, is seen to be affected by Ikemefuna’s death and Ezinma’s illness. Further, chapter nine brings out a superstitious believe held by the Igbo community. In chapter ten, Achebe tries to portray the administration of justice in the Igbo culture. More so, he tries to show the position of women in this society. He convincingly shows that, though highly vulnerable, the women’s place in the society is highly regarded and protected.
The arrival of the white missionaries is described from the tenth to the twentieth chapter. The title of the book is given by these chapters as the notion of societal collapse is brought to light here. The arrival of Christianity has brought division to the Igbo community. A considerable number of Igbo communities no longer believe in Igbo culture. Chapter seventeen details how the society has found a new refugee with the new culture. Okonkwo has all over been depicted as a brutal leader, and now the religion provides a sense of hope to those who have suffered under the Igbo culture. The new faith has come with both social and political attachment, which is growing faster than expected. Despite the Igbo leadership allocating the white missionaries land at the heart of the evil forest to build a church, they hope that sooner than later all the whites will die. However, the whites would rather gain the grounds, and it is a clear indication of mightiness over the Igbo culture. In chapter eighteen, Achebe portrays Christianity in the Igbo society. Kiaga’s stewardship as a Christian is highly admirable. Christianity fills the void, which had been left vacant following the brutality common for the Igbo leadership. The readers can see that Christianity rescues twins and gives comfort for the outcasts. Another element brought forward in this chapter is people’s rebellion to the Igbo religion. People were turning to Christianity in large numbers. Chapter nineteen shows how things have changed, and Okonkwo seeks refuge in the nearby Mbanto clan. His way of life has been shaken by the new religion and he no longer commands authority in the Igbo clan. Though he eventually comes back to Umuofia, he is more convinced that things are no longer the same again. People have betrayed the Igbo culture and aware converting to Christianity.
Chapter twenty shows the establishment of the English laws in the Igbo society. The white man considers the Igbo laws as foolish, and the whites are exercising their authority through the District Commissioner (DC). Okonkwo is horrified as Igbo is no longer governable. The whites consider the Igbo laws as inferior to theirs. Nonetheless, the Igbo society is forced to bow to the white authority as the new authority, and religion wrecks havoc of the traditional Igbo life. Chapters from the twenty first to the twenty fifth give a clear summary of invasion of whites to Umuofia. In chapter twenty one, the readers get introduced to Brown, who leads the whites and is also a great crusader of Christianity. The author depicts Brown as a wise man, who wins the locals though their Umuofia clan leaders. The chapter also tells that Okonkwo has not still accepted the Christianity religion. This is depicted, where he chases Mr. Brown, when he pays him a visit at his home. Chapter twenty two brings the true colors of the British imperialism. Brown is replaced by Smith who is not wise enough compared to Brown. He sees a white and a black man. He shows no respect to Igbo traditions, hence making the new religion hypocritical and intolerable. Chapter twenty three gives a summary of the natives uprising against the whites. A church is destroyed, and the Igbo warriors attack the white men. It is shown how the Igbo traditions and laws preserve order. The natives are harassed by the white through their draconian rules. The new system of governance put in place by the white men totally denies justice to the natives. In chapter twenty four and twenty five, the author shows how Okonkwo and his team are planning to mobilize the clan to fight the whites. They are bitter after being arrested and mistreated by the black converts serving the white masters. However, the white men are not satisfied and are ready to destroy Umuofia’s primitive democracy. Okonkwo is highly determined to fight the whites, but, unfortunately, most of the clan members are no longer behind him. Most people are now the followers of the whites, who are considered as the saviors having brought about schools, education and healthcare. Chapter twenty five details how the British conquer the Umuofia clan. This is well illustrated with the demise of Okonkwo, who hangs himself after realizing that he has lost the white rule. After being betrayed by his own people, Okonkwo is left with no other option than hanging himself. This chapter concludes the novel while at the same time brings out the meaning of the book title, Things Fall Apart. The British invasion put an end to the solid culture of the Igbo community and converted it to the western culture.
2. How is success measured in this society vs. American society?
In the Igbo society, the culture and beliefs are deeply rooted, which can hardly be witnessed in modern day America. Wealth in Umuofia, currently Nigeria, was measured by different things, namely by the number of wives. Such a tradition is not common for America, and polygamy is not welcomed in the American society. Another strange cultural peculiarity of Umuofia is polytheism. They worshiped many gods and practiced the ritual sacrifices. Such traditions were dropped in the western culture long time ago. While the Christian culture brought about another way of living to the people of Umuofia, many clan members found flaws in the Igbo culture, which to some extent fastened the conversion to Christianity.
4. In the novel “Yams stood for manliness.” What types of symbols do we have in American culture?
Unlike the Igbo culture, where the yams stood for manliness, wealth is a sign of manliness in the modern American society.
5. How, despite social forces and the structure of society, is one able to resist, rebel
or struggle to cope with traditions and institutions in both the novel and American
In Chinua Achebe’s novel, the society is able to cope with the tradition by not wholesomely dropping their culture even after the introduction of the western culture. They picked and assumed what was beneficial to them, while, at the same time, appreciating that their traditions were instrumental in maintaining order in the society. However, the westerners had no intention of assuming the native traditions as they considered them overtaken by time. As such, they wooed the locals to accept their new way of life, which could bring a difference in their life. People were suffering under the traditional culture, which forced them to rebel their own systems of governance for the sake of the western laws.