Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe Hunter Lee A.P. English Literature 11 March 2010
Who Is Chinua Achebe? Chinua Achebe is the most well-known African author. He is often considered the father of African Literature. Things Fall Apart is a novel that is the first of its kind. It is the first novel from the perspective of the native Africans whose traditions were destroyed by the Christian missionaries. Although the characters in the novel are fictional, the story itself is an authentic description of life before and after the arrival of the missionaries.
Things Fall Apart The novel begins in the village of Umuofia. Umuofia is one of many villages that the missionaries visit. Umuofia is the home of the novel’s protagonist Okonkwo.
Okonkwo Okonkwo is a respected and powerful figure in Umuofia. Okonkwo primary goal in life is to avoid failure and prove to his family and other villagers that he is not similar to his father Unoka. Unoka was considered a weak and cowardly individual in Umuofia. He died with little respect and no honor. Okonkwo owns a large yam farm, has three wives, and several children. Okonkwo’s major weakness that ends up destroying him is his inability to accept change.
Nwoye is Okonkwo’s eldest son. Okonkwo and Nwoye do not have a close relationship because Okonkwo does not express love because it would be considered a sign of weakness. Enzinma is Okonkwo’s youngest daughter. Even though Okonkwo has little respect for women, Enzinma is ironically his favorite child. He sees so much of himself in her. Ikemefuna is a child who the Umuofian tribe receives as a mercy gift. Okonkwo is asked to be the father figure. Nwoye and Ikemefuna become extremely close, and both gain Okonkwo’s approval. However, he does not express this approval because it shows weakness. Okonkwo’s Children
Ogbuefi’s Warning Ogbuefi is a well respected village elder who knows all the decisions made by the Tribe Council. Ogbuefi approaches Okonkwo with the news that Ikemefumna must be killed in order to keep peace and prosperity in Umuofia. Ogbuefi pleads with Okonkwo not to join in Ikemefuna’s murder because he views Okonkwo as his father. Okonkwo promises Ogbuefi that he will not join in the murder of Ikemefuna.
A Broken Promise Ikemefuna is approached by Okonkwo and told he is being sent back to his home village. Ikemefuna has mixed feelings because he views Umuofia as his new home, however, he is still happy to return home. Nwoye is upset that Ikemefuna must return home because he views Ikemefuna as his brother.
A few hours into the journey back to his village, Ikemefuna begins to sense trouble. He turns around to see what is happening behind him. Okonkwo tells Ikemefuna to continue forward. Moments later Ikemefuna is struck by an axe. He rushes to Okonkwo for help and pleads Okonkwo to stop the men. However, Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna because expressing pity and pleading with the men would be a sign of weakness.
Guilty Conscience Okonkwo enters a great depression after Ikemefuna’s death. He cannot believe what has happened. Okonkwo is also upset because since Ikemefuna’s death Nwoye has become more like Unoka. Okonkwo depression only grows deeper after Ogbuefi, the elder Okonkwo promised he would not get involved with Ikemefuna’s death, dies.
Okonkwo’s Banishment During the festivities of Ogbuefi’s funeral Okonkwo and the other men of the village shoot their guns out of respect for the elder. However Okonkwo accidentally kills Ogbuefi’s son because his gun misfires. Unfortunately for Okonkwo killing a village member is the greatest disgrace... Because of that Okonkwo and his family are banished frimUmuofia for the next seven years.
Mbanta Okonkwo and his family return to his mother’s village Mbanta. Mbanta is where Okonkwo’s relatives and extended family live. During his banishment in MbantaOkonkwo is visited once a year by Obierika a village elder in Umuofia. Obierika is Okonkwo’s closest and most loyal friend. He understands that the murder was an accident.
Arrival of the White Men During the final year of Okonkwo’s banishment Obierika explains to Okonkwo that “White Men” have arrived and they speak of a God and his Son. Okonkwo becomes enraged by the fact that the “White Men” are destroying tradition. Okonkwo vows he will defeat the “White Men”. Your Text Here
The White Men Mr. Brown is one of the first missionaries to arrive in Umuofia. Mr. Brown is the symbol of the genuine peacemaker. He is interested in the native’s religion and does not force them to convert. Mr. Brown is successful in converting some natives, including Nwoye.
As time goes on Mr. Brown begins to convert more and more villagers. However, Mr. Brown falls ill and must leave his villager’s in the hands of Reverend Smith. Reverend Smith is the opposite of Mr. Brown. He forces the villagers to convert. However, if there are villagers who he feels are not fully accepting of God he does not let them convert and even kicks out certain villagers who have already converted. Reverend Smith is quite hypocritical.
Okonkwo is Defeated Okonkwo struggles to see his fellow villagers convert to the “White Men’s” religion. Okonkwo cannot accept the destruction of traditions. He slowly begins to lose his mind and cannot live any longer. Okonkwo hangs himself to end his agony. By committing suicide Okonkwo proves that he is no better than his father Unoka.
Important Symbols Achebe uses symbols throughout the novel. These symbols are used to describe different aspects of the novel. Wrestling is how Okonkwo gained all of his power and respect. Okonkwo as a young man was the greatest wrestler in the village. His drive to avoid failure helped propel him as a wrestler. Wrestling as a sport is the struggle to gain position over one’s opponent. However, symbolically wrestling represent Okonkwo’s struggle to accept change. Okonkwo fights to end the changes around him and keep his tribe’s traditions thriving. Unfortunately for Okonkwo he fails and is defeated by change.
Important Symbols Aside from wrestling also uses a symbol that is authentic and used throughout the African tribes. During the novel Okonkwo and other tribe members are constantly offering each other the kola nut. The kola nut was used as a sign of a peace offering to any visitor. Throughout the novel Okonkwo uses the nuts as a gesture of friendship and respect. However, Okonkwo and other elders do not offer the nuts to the “White Men”. Symbolizing the lack of respect for the new visitors.
Why was Things Fall Apart Written? Things Fall Apart is considered Achebe’s greatest novel. Achebe not only plays the role as an author, but also a historian. Things Fall Apart was written to express the details on the influences of white missionaries on African tribes. Achebe was the first author to write from the point of view of the African villagers.