Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

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Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, tells the story of Okonkwo. As a fearful and stubborn protagonist, the novel retains a clear focus upon his thoughts and actions. Through the skewed perspective of a character-focused narrative, Achebe presents the complexities and subtleties of life in the Ibo community. Although the rigid frame of Okonkwo’s fears and beliefs restrict most of the narrative to his myopic account of Ibo life, the views of those in contrast to his can be seen on the outskirts of the text. These alternatives to the central narrative, at first, appear distant and periphery possibilities of reality, but through the associations between repeated terms and the recurrence of themes the novel foreshadows importance and influence of this alternative perspective. Perspectives, which will, eventually, overwhelm Okonkwo. The most prominent examples of these splits in understanding often concern the treatment and actions of characters who, at the beginning of the narrative, hold no voice or power in the eyes of Okonkwo or the clan. Yet, as the influence of these characters becomes increasingly more visible within the life and future of the clan, the revelation of such importance destroys Okonkwo’s reality. The understanding of gender roles, by Okonkwo as well as the clan as a whole, presents the first, and most recurring, conflict between perspectives. Okonkwo, keeping with the tradition of a patriarchal society, views women as inferior. Often wishing that his daughter, Ezinma, “should have been a boy” (64). This wish reflects a practice, consistent by both Okonkwo and his clan, of devaluing women’s experiences and importance to the society. However, the level of this devaluation becomes unclear through the dialogue an... ... middle of paper ... ... hold of Nwoye, who walked away and never returned” (152) provides the evidence for Okonkwo’s inability to alter his perception. Specifically, the phrase “he left hold” implies that the decision was made by Okonkwo. Okonkwo could not allow his son to remain his son while demonstrating traits which he believed to be opposed to what he thought a son should retain. This quote clearly demonstrates another occurrence of difference between Okonkwo’s and the clan’s view. While the clan has made compromises with the church Okonkwo rejects the idea entirely, to the point where he exiles his own son. By once again appealing to the gendered definition of weakness, “If any one of you prefers to be a woman, let him follow Nwoye” (172). This ultimate rejection of his own family provides that last piece of evidence of his damnation, a fate that at one point was laid out for him.

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