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Md Muzaffar Aalm

DR. Kishwar Zafir

EOB 556

December 06, 2018

A Detail Study of Chinua Achebe's Novel Things Fall Apart

Fall Apart is a postcolonial novel written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe and

published in 1958.This novel widely read and studied in English speaking country around the

world .It provides deep level of culture detail it also deals with clash of cultures and violent

transitions in life and values brought about by the onset of British colonialism in Nigeria at the

end of nineteenth century. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English and one

of the first to receive global critical acclaim.

The action of Things Fall Apart occurs in two places. Most of the action is set in Umuofia

a village of Igbo people in the African country of Nigeria

before the arrival of white missionaries into their land. At one point, the main character

Okonkwo and his family briefly move to Mbanta, another Igbo village in the same region. The

novel is split into three parts the first two describing the Igbo people and their culture and

the third describing the British and the colonial conquer of Umofia. Most of the novel centers

around the lives of the Igbo people, and their environment. Novel depicts the life of Okonkwo a

wealthy local leader and warrior raised from nothing to a high position. Through hard work, he

has become a great man among his people. He has taken three wives and his barn is full of yams,

the staple crop. He rules his family with an iron fist. Novel shows his struggles and efforts to

achieve his goal. Okonkwo accidentally kills Escudo’s son. For his crime, the village determines

he must spend seven years in exile to appease the gods. During his exile, white missionaries

arrive in the village. When Okonkwo finally returns, the white men have thoroughly infiltrated

his village. The missionaries arrive first, preaching a religion. They win converts, but generally

the converts are men of low rank or outcasts. However, with time, the new religion gains

momentum The church has won some converts, some of whom are fanatical and disrespectful of

clan custom. Some of the villagers, including Okonkwo, want to stage an uprising against the

village. The clan calls a meeting to decide whether they will fight or try to live peacefully with

the whites. Okonkwo wants war but They will not fight the white men off Unable to live with his

revelation, Okonkwo kills himself. This is a very important moment in the novel because,

according to Okonkwo's traditional beliefs, suicide is not allowed. Okonkwo's desperation about

his changing village is staggering if it can outweigh his strict adherence to the traditional ways.

At the end of the novel, a white commissioner, upon learning about Okonkwo's rebellion and

suicide, notes that it will make an interesting paragraph in the book he is writing about 'the

pacification of the primitive tribes of the lower Niger.'

The characters in Things Fall Apart are mostly from Nigeria. These particular Nigerians

are members of the Igbo people a particular ethnic group within Nigeria. Chinua Achebe, shows

how each character lives as an Igbo in Nigeria both before and during the opening stages of

English colonization. This was when the English came to Nigeria to settle there and to take the

leadership of the land. However, these characters are not simply their culture; they also have

their own individual strengths and weaknesses that lead them to react to one another and to

events in the story in different ways


In this novel historical and biographical criticism go hand in hand. Through his

novel Things Fall Apart, author presents a clan of Igbo people and their way of life during the

beginning of colonization in Africa. Most of the story took place in the fictional village of

Iguedo, which is in the Umuofia clan. Umuofia is located west of the actual city of Onitsha, on

the east bank of the Niger River Nigeria. The events of the novel unfold in the 1890s. The culture

depicted, that of the Igbo people, is similar to that of Achebe's birthplace of Ogidi, where Igbo

speaking people lived together in groups of independent villages ruled by titled elders. The

customs and cultures were described in the novel such as polytheistic religion family and

farming culture are the mirror of the actual Onitsha people because they are polytheistic with

different gods or goddesses to oversee each aspect of life. Their familial traditions father-son

inheritance traditions are the same as in Igbo society who lived near Ogidi, and with whom

Achebe was familiar. Within forty years of the arrival of the British, by the time Achebe was

born in 1930, the missionaries were well established. He lived in the British culture but he

refused to change his Igbo name Chinua to Albert. Achebe's father was among the first to be

converted in Ogidi, around the turn of the century. Achebe himself was an orphan raised by his

grandfather. His grandfather, far from opposing Achebe's conversion to Christianity, allowed

Achebe's Christian marriage to be celebrated in his compound.

Analyzing Chinua Achebe’s novel from a gender perspective we have explored the male

characters and their dealings with women are patriarchal. We see very strict gender roles in the

Umuofian society. Women have no right to do something without men’s permission even they

cannot feed someone all these things shows gender discrimination in this novel. There are

certain tasks designated to women that men simply don't do. One of these is dinner. Women are

expected to provide dinner for their husbands and take care of children. When a man has

multiple wives, each of them provides meal for him and for her own children. We see an

example of this with Okonkwo's youngest wife, Ojiugo. She goes to a neighbor's hut to get her

hair plaited and does not come back in time for dinner. One of the other wives has to feed

Ojiugo's children without being asked, and Okonkwo notices her absence when he waits for his

dinner and she does not show. The men also have set roles in everyday life. They are in charge of

village laws, making sure rules are followed and determining appropriate punishment. Another

thing in Igbo has the counting system of wives –first wife second-wife third-wife and so on so as

we count things they do not mentions the name of wife because of the root og gender

discrimination lay in deep socio-culture psyche of the Igbo community. Men are expected to be

protectors and providers. If there is war or conflict, they're expected to fight. They are also

expected to provide for their families In Umuofian society, it is sons who inherit from their

fathers and help them in their work. Daughters cannot inherit and typically don't help their

fathers the way a son would. Here again, we see gender roles creating tension in Things Fall

Apart. Okonkwo's daughter Ezinma is his favorite child. She knows him best and they get along

better than any of the other children After analyzing the topic in depth, we came to the

conclusion that the Ibo society is commonplace for the subjugation of women, women that are

caught in a mind warp that convinces them of their lower position in society blaming it on the

supposed ‘natural order.

In this novel psychoanalytic theory partly consists of Freudian theories relating to mind,

our instincts and sexuality and is based on the premises that human behavior is driven by

unconscious process. People always have some problems in life. Their problems can be caused

by their own or people around them. It becomes interesting when the problem happens inside our

mind, which can be in the form of anxiety fear .Okonkwo is the main character in this novel. He

has many problems and conflicts that are caused by the circumstances around him. He has his

own conflict inside his mind and also conflicts with the environment around him caused by the

negative image of his father. Okonkwo’s life is complicated since he suffers from the fear of his

father’s image in society and culture changing that makes his family and tradition fall apart. It

leads him to unconsciously apply several defense mechanisms action to relieve his self from his

anxieties. Fear and anxiety deep in unconscious mind, irrational impulses synonymous,

forgotten, childhood trauma, oedipal overtone effecting the intergenerational conflicts

between father and son are different psychoanalytical terms associated to Okonkwo but

most fitting is story of fear. In the novel protagonist relationship to his mother plays a

significant role in explaining the tense with his father and own sons. This shows Oedipus

complex which is used in the theory of psychoanalytic to describe feeling of desire for his or her

opposite sex and jealousy and anger towards his or her same sex. The fear that is injected in

him in childhood, use all his adult age for escaping of fear but at the end commits

suicide out of fear. We find in okonkwo id superego when stretched himself and scratched

his thigh where a mosquito had bitten him as he slept. The murder of Ikemefuna caused

great anxiety in him. It is a painful anguish where Ego’s inability to control the in futile

demands of unconscious mind. He can neither eat nor sleep where he resembles Macbeth who

is unable to control unconscious after Murder. Okonkwo remains physically also

economically disturbed for two whole days. In planning murder Ego is not working rather

ID and Superego of irrational impulses synonymous that caught great warrior. Mosquito bite

shows that great warrior‘s superego is working as it awaken him from sleep so he is

between conscious and coconscious mind. It also depicts ideas and morals of Igbo Society

Things Fall Apart the following myth would be discussed critically, the mosquito myth,

locust myth, the Osu myth and the myth of the earth and sky. The mosquito myth is discussed as

thus: Mosquitoes had ask Ear to marry him Whereupon Ear fell in the floor laughing The Osu

myth has an age long place among the Igbos and Osu is a person dedicated to a god. The person

naturally becomes a taboo forever and his children after him. The Osus are also revealed in

Things Fall Apart as one of the early converts that came to the church (1966:296) said that their

origin may be unknown but they are regarded as one of the historical tradition of the Igbos in

Nigeria. They lived in the forest in Things Fall Apart and these forests are sacred and often

dedicated to the gods. Forests to them are not a place of death but that which preserves and

nurtures them to fulfill the purpose why they exist. Osu stands for that is united with the forest.

The Osu ended up among the 1st that benefited from western education .The rustic environment

can therefore be said to be a place that nurtures for eventual educational achievement.

The use of universal archetypes in Achebe’s writing can be clearly seen through an

examination of multiple characters in the text. These characters contain common ideals and

characteristics with characters dating back to Greek-roman literature; ideals and characteristics

that later would develop into the modern archetype explained by Carl Jung. Jung’s archetype

system is at its core the idea of the collective unconscious .Okonkwo, the main character of the

novel is an archetypal character. He is described as a strong and valiant character, rich in

possessions and well-regarded in his community. However, his fatal flaw is revealed, in “the

thought of his father’s weakness and failure troubled him. These thoughts of failure and

weakness force him to overcompensate through becoming extremely successful and never being

able to show weakness. Okonkwo begins to fill the mold of the tragic hero at this point, in that he

is overcome with his sense of negativity surrounding his so he dispels this idea by becoming an

extremely successful and showing no weakness. The character Obierika in Things Fall Apart is

another example of the relationship that the story has, both to western readers and to ancient

literature, due to universal archetypal patterns in the text. Obierika’s role in the novel is not a

large one; however, he plays an important role as a symbol for the archetype of the sage.

Obierika is described partially in contrast to Okonkwo, being a man of wise decisions, deep

thoughts, and careful actions

There are many universal symbols in the novel such fire ”yam the main

character, Okonkwo, is often described in terms of fire and flames - his nickname is even

'Roaring Flame' - so, to him, fire symbolizes potential, masculinity, and life. Yams are symbols

of masculinity, wealth, and strength in this novel. Yams are like sweet potatoes, and, in

Okonkwo's world, they're an important crop grown exclusively by men. The more yams a man

has, the wealthier and more respected he is. In short, a man's worth is judged by the worth of his

yams. You might guess, ash is seen as impotent, cold, and lifeless. Okonkwo links ash to

emasculation. Not only does Okonkwo compare his own son, Nwoye, to ash, but the court

messengers are also a comment about the color of their shorts but also about their masculinity.

WORDS: 2224