Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: A Modern-day Epic Essay

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: A Modern-day Epic Essay

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Chinua Achebe’s, Things Fall Apart could be considered a modern-day epic. Achebe’s main character in the novel: Okonkwo compares to the heroic figure of Odysseus, in Homer’s epic The Iliad. Okonkwo embodies the early ideals, characteristics, and traditions of his people and/or nation. And through Achebe’s dignified literary style, and use of language-Okonkwo represents the concept of self and society, and of the culture class during Africa’s colonization by western philosophy.
     Okonkwo is introduced to the reader with a sense of urgency and importance in the opening sentence: “Okonkwo was well know throughout the nine villages and even beyond.” (Achebe 3) The reason was a result of him bringing honor to his village for being the fiercest wrestler when he was a younger man. Achebe’s physical description of Okonkwo is one of reverence, and could be used to describe many of the men in Umuofia. He is large, and his facial structure makes him seem to wear an angry expression at all times. The fact that his three wives could hear him breath while he slept, even though they lived in separate houses creates a strong image. Okonkwo personality is that of quick to anger and prone to expressing his anger through his fists. One important quality of Okonkwo is his desire to be successful-he has no patience for men like his father who had taken no title and died heavily in debt.
     As a result of Okonkwo’s need for success comes his strength of working harder and longer than anyone else.     In his village of Umuofia, men were recognized by there worth not by a patriarchal system. This is important for Okonkwo because he did not inherit a barn from his father, and was forced to borrow his first seed-yams from a rich man in the village. Yams were a sign of manliness in Umuofia, a man was considered great if he “could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another”. (Achebe 33) Yams required constant work and attention for an entire harvest, and Okonkwo reveled in the sowing of the yams. Achebe shows Okonkwo’s desire to work by explaining how he never became too overly enthusiastic over village feasts because it involved sitting for days, while Okonkwo would rather have been working. Working is a release for Okonkwo, and when there is no work to be done he would take is fury out on his...


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... the messengers of the District Commissioner. Okonkwo is destroyed, his personal life and his clan had been taken over by the white man, and the other clansmen had lost their will to fight. Okonkwo’s only choice was suicide; he died in the same manner of his father-without a burial from his fellow clansman.
Okonkwo embodied a culture that has long been forgotten, and largely been fictionalized in early western literature. Achebe offers a more factual account of a once proud culture that has suffered as a result of the injustices of western colonization. Okonkwo represents the proud history of Africa, and how contrary to Western prejudices his people had something to offer the world. Okonkwo wasn’t without his flaws, but more importantly he was a proud man who was devoted to his family and even more so to the clan. But when confronted with a new culture that threatens the things that hold Okonkwo’s culture together, he becomes demoralized. He realizes that his clan was falling apart as a result of the white men, and that he would rather take his own self rather than live in this new society.




Work Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Random House, New York (1994)

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