Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart

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     A novel which is set roughly at the turn of the century, Things Fall Apart proposes the idea that the Igbo culture possessed civility prior to it’s colonization by the British. Okonkwo, a character comparable to a Greek tragic hero is a man of very little compassion for anyone, including himself. The cultural standards, his own inability to handle the changes being made in his culture, and stressed family life are all conflicts created by his society that lead to his tragic downfall.
     The emphasis placed upon societal status in Igbo culture is profound. Okonkwo builds his life around this ideal because his father was considered town failure. He is constantly blindly trying to better his social status. An obvious portrayal of his need to keep his masculinity is his murder of a boy. The boy was practically a son to him who had been raised in his home among his family. It is decided by the town elders that the boy, Ikemefuna, should be killed in retribution of a woman murdered three years ago. Even after the boy cries out to Okonkwo calling him his father, “…Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.”(61) Okonkwo’s culture pushed him to become a heartless man in order to gain respect.
     At the turn of the century Igbo culture was nearing it’s height of colonization by the British. The British came bearing Christianity, a completely new and different sort of religion.
Some Igbos were more than willing to convert to this new and promising religion while other’s held dear and true to their Igbo ways. Okonkwo not only held dear to his culture but did so with a vengeance. After the remaining Igbos burnt down the Christian church in anger Okonkwo thinks, “And they had done it. Okonkwo was almost happy again.”(192) The societal pressure put on Okonkwo to be strong and manly has caused him to act nearly sadistically.
     In Igbo culture family is an important factor in life but family is a very different thing than what the western world today considers it. A man has many wives, thus, many children. Okonkwo has three wives who care, cook, clean, and partake in many other chores around the house and farm. Okonkwo dislikes his oldest son, Nwoye, from the death of Ikemefuna on. Nwoye cries when he is told of Ikemefuna departure and thus is thought of as womanly and weak by Okonkwo.

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Nwoye also betrays his father by becoming a Christian thus dishonoring his father. Ezinma, Okonkwo's only daughter with his wife Ekwefi, is a sickly child who was constantly becoming ill. Okonkwo tries and succeeds hiding his feelings of compassion for her. Okonkwo’s family is more proof of the way his culture hardened him and made him a callous and apathetic man.
     Society’s pressures are here in the 2000 era too. Everyday we see people too stressed from their daily life. So, a universal message is learned throughout Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo’s tragic suicide was brought on by his inability to deal with the ever-changing society. The clash of cultures proved to end Okonkwo and his “manliness” forever.
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