Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

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Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” chronicles the life of Okonkwo, a strong man whose existence is dominated by fear and anger, and the Ibo tribe, a people deeply rooted in cultural belief and tradition. As events unfold, Okonkwo’s carefully constructed world and the Ibo way of life collapses. The story of Okonkwo’s fall from a respected and feared leader of the Ibo tribe to an outcast who dies in disgrace dramatizes his inability to evolve beyond his personal beliefs, affecting the entire Ibo tribe beyond measure. The “things” that fall apart in Achebe’s novel are Okonkwo’s life – his ambition, dreams, family unity and material wealth – and the Ibo way of life – their beliefs, culture and values.

The greatest force that compelled Okonkwo to succeed was his fierce desire to be nothing like his father, resulting in his deep seated fear of failure and weakness. Thus, Okonkwo bred a furious temper, abusing his wives and children, and ruled his home harshly and without benevolent emotion. “Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe, 1958, p. 13, para. 1). His father, Unoka, was considered a failure by Ibo standards; labeled agbala (“agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title” (Achebe, 1958, p. 13, para. 1), he was regarded by his village, Umuofia, as lazy and effeminate; Unoka died heavily in debt and had taken no tribal titles in his lifetime. Okonkwo was ashamed of Unoka, and was obsessed with becoming the antithesis of him; this obsession would ultimately prove to be a tragic character flaw for Okonkwo and serve as the foundation not only for his success, but also...

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...and was not willing to sacrifice his inherent beliefs for strangers, intruders in his village. Okonkwo expected as much from those around him – Nwoye and his fellow clansmen – as he expected from himself, and held on to the possibility that his example would be followed, should be followed, as they rose up against the white man and prevailed! In the end, he was left disappointed and all he had fell apart.

Works Cited

Achebe, C. (1959). Things fall apart. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

Akwani, O.O. (2011). Okonkwo: A life of fear; a life of bravery. Chinua Achebe's things fall apart: A book review. Retrieved from

Froiland, A. (2011). Tribes and people groups: Ibo (Igbo). African people and culture. Retrieved from
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