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DDM #: 11-11-01 January 13, 2014

Ivy Nicole G. Soriano IV-Wisdom

Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
"The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion.
We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our
brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the
things that held us together and we have fallen apart."
- Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

About the Author1

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe; November 16, 1930
March 21, 2013 is known for having played a germinal role in the founding and
development of African literature. He is considered among the most significant world writers.
He is most recognized for the groundbreaking 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, a novel still
considered to be required reading the world over. It has sold over twelve million copies and
has been translated into more than fifty languages.

Achebe's global significance lies not only in his talent and recognition as a writer, but
also as a professor, critical thinker, and essayist who has written extensively on questions of
the role of culture in Africa and the social and political significance of aesthetics and
analysis of the postcolonial state in Africa. He is renowned, for example, for "An Image of
Africa," his trenchant and famous critique of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Today, this
critique is recognized as one of the most generative interventions on Conrad; and one that
opened the social study of literary texts, particularly the impact of power relations on 20th
century literary imagination.

An Igbo Chieftain 2

1 ______________ Brown University [database on-line]; available from


2 ______________ Wikipedia [database on-line]; available from http://en.wikipedia.org/

A titled Igbo chieftain himself, Achebe's novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the
effect of Christian influences, and the clash of Western and traditional African values during and
after the colonial era. His style relies heavily on the Igbo oral tradition, and combines
straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. He also
published a number of short stories, children's books, and essay collections. From 2009 until his
death, he served as a professor at Brown University in the United States.

Plot Overview

Okonkwo is a strong man of an Ibo village, Umuofia, in Nigeria. He is known for his solid
personal achievements. He brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat, the great
wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten. However, his father, Unoka had left an unfortunate
legacy of being cheap; a man who borrowed and lost money, neglected his wife and children,
feared the sight of blood, had a shameful death and left many debts. Okonkwo wanted to
dismiss this tainted legacy thus works hard for wealth and title entirely on his own. He became
wealthy and powerful and had three wives and children. He is the leader of his village.

Okonkwo is truly respected and highly regarded that the nine villages selected him to be
the guardian of Ikemefuna, a boy taken by Umuofia in exchange for Ikemefunas father killing an
Umuofian woman, for a while until his death. Ikemefuna then lives with Okonkwos family and
grows fond of each other, even calling Okonkwo his father. Soon, The Oracle of the Hills and
the Caves pronounces that the boy must be killed. Ogbuefi Ezeudu, the oldest man in the
village warned Okonkwo not to plead on the decision to avoid appearing weak and feminine. In
fact, Okonkwo also strikes the killing blow. For many days after killing Ikemefuna, Okonkwo
feels guilty and saddened by this.

Days after Ikemefunas death, things begin to go wrong for Okonkwo. He accidentally
killed Ogbuefi Ezeudus son during a gun salute at the old mans funeral. He and his family were
sent to exile for seven years as a peace settlement to the gods he has offended. While he is
away, white men begin to arrive in Umuofia. They used their religion and beliefs to make the
villagers trust and join them. The number of converts increase, including Okonkwos lost son,
Nwoye. The white people now holds the authority greater than Okonkwos. As a new
government is introduced, the white men gave the villagers a choice with either appeasement or
resistance, but therefore, if one resists, will not be saved by the Almighty and will not have
eternal life.
After seven years of exile, Okonkwo returns and finds his village no longer his village, a
Umuofia he cannot recognize. Most of his people are now converts, changed by the presence of
the white men. He and other tribal leaders destroy a local Christian church in attempt to reclaim
their hold on their land and people. The leader of the white government takes them as a
prisoner and holds them for a ransom, which further humiliated and insulted the native leaders.

The people of Umuofia finally gather for a rebellion. When the white men try to stop the
meeting, Okonkwo kills one of them. He realizes that his people are not going to fight to protect
themselves. His societys response to a war is changing.

Because Okonkwo killed a white man, the leader of the white government visits to
Okonkwos house to take him to court. He finds that Okonkwo has hanged himself, committed
suicide rather than be tried in a colonial court. Okonkwos actions have ruined his reputation and
status, no matter the reason of him hanging himself, for committing suicide is strictly against the
teachings of Igbo.

Okonkwo is a brave and strong man and the clan leader of an Ibo village in Nigeria. He
is the novels protagonist. He was tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave
him a very severe look. He had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had no patience with his
father. Okonkwo has three wives and eight children. Although a true warrior and hates seeming
feminine, he cares more for his daughter, Ezinma than his son, Nwoye as he believes that
Ezinma is braver than Nwoye. As a young man of eighteen, Okonkwo brought honor to his
village by throwing the great wrestler who for seven years remained unbeaten. Okonkwo strives
for title. He wanted to be different from his father, Unoka, whos weak, coward, and died with
many unpaid debts. Hence, Okonkwo develops to a wealthy, heroic, and fierce man. Okonkwos
life is dominated by fear of failure and of weaknessthe fear that he will resemble his father3.

Okonkwo is a round character. Through the course of the story, he was strong and fights
as a true warrior. He knows where he stands and that is his only belief. Yet, eventually, he
commits suicide, becoming an abomination to his culture in the Earth like his father. He was not
able to accept the change in his culture and his people anymore. Although he hanged himself

3 ______________ Wikipedia [database on-line]; available from http://en.wikipedia.org/

and stayed with his standpoint, he appeared weak for escaping such situation where Umuofia
needed him.

Unoka is Okonkwos father. In the novel, Unoka died ten years ago. He was lazy,
improvident, and was quite incapable of thinking about the future. He loved language, music,
and conversations. He was a debtor, and he died owing each of his neighbor quite substantial
amounts. He consumes the money he gets by buying palm-wine and having fun. He has
forgotten to take care of his wives and children. He died with no title and by swelling, which was
considered an abomination to the Earth.

Nwoye is Okonkwos son, whom he fears would become like Unoka. He is weak and
cowardly. Nwoye prefers and believes what his mother does. Eventually, he became one of the
converts to Christianity upon the visit of the white men.

Nwoye is also a round character. He doesnt show any serious act of betrayaldeciding
on his ownuntil he chooses to be a Christian.

A boy from the village of Mbaino, Ikemefuna is the boy offered by his village to Umuofia
as a peace settlement between both villages. This is because Ikemefunas father killed a
Umuofian women. Ikemefuna is murdered for not seeming to show enough masculinity.

Ezinma is Okonkwos favourite daughter because of its inherited traits from him.
Okonkwo often notes that she would have made such strong warrior if only she was a boy.
Ezinma has the courage to contradict his father, which made Okonkwo like her more.

The story was set in pre-colonial Nigeria in 1890s in the village of Umuofia, located west
of the actual city of Onitsha, on the east bank of the Niger River in Nigeria4. Still, there are other
villages named for it played a part in the story like the exile of Okonkwo where he was sent to
Mbanta, and Ikemefuna is from Mbaino.

The role of culture in society
With the death of Ikemefuna, Okonkwo's expulsion due to events beyond his control and
the journey of Ezinma with Chielo, Achebe questions, particularly through Obierika, whether
adherence to culture is for the benefit of society when it brings about so many hardships and
sacrifices on the part of Okonkwo and his family.

The struggle between change and tradition

The struggle between change and tradition is constant; however, this statement only appears to
apply to Okonkwo. Change can very well be accepted, as evidenced by how the people of
Umuofia refuse to join Okonkwo as he strikes down the white man's messenger, a kotma, at the
end. Perhaps Okonkwo is not so much bothered by change, but the idea of losing everything he
has built up, such as his fortune, prestige, and title, which will be replaced by new values. It is
evidenced throughout the book that he cares deeply about these things, exemplified in his
feelings of regret that he has lacked a "respectable" father figure from whom he could have
inherited them. A second interpretation is apparent with Okonkwo's static behavior to cultural
change. His suicide can be seen as a final attempt to show to the people of Umuofia the results
of a clash between cultures and as a plea for the Igbo culture to be upheld. In the same way
that his father's failure motivated Okonkwo to reach a high standing in the Igbo society,
Okonkwo's suicide leads Obierika and fellow Umuofia men to recognize the long-held custom of
refraining from burying a man who commits suicide and from performing the customary rituals.
This interpretation is further emphasized with Obierika's comment on Okonkwo as a great man
driven to kill himself as a result of the pain springing from the loss of his society's traditions.

4 ______________ Wikipedia [database on-line]; available from http://en.wikipedia.org/

5 Jeffrey W. Hunter, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe: Introduction Vol. 152 (2002)
Thus, Okonkwo's killing of the messenger and subsequent suicide embodies the internal
struggle between change and tradition.