Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is fantastically flocked with the consciousness of the African cultural paradigm, a multitude of evolving characters, and words that sing the mouths of the African post-colonial community. Indeed, the novel is fresh to represent a flexible African craft of letters and substance of significance even to its peripheries of zeitgeist. The novel derives its simple, yet powerful characteristics from that of the realms of African social and religious connections. Okonkwo’s story defines the prospect of his widely-branched family, and ultimately, the tragic breaking down of his illustrious clan. Overall, this three-part-novel which paves the way to the societal, religious and cultural clash is an example of an insightful breadth and a powerful hand which penned not just for the purpose of showing, but also for the intention of provoking the readers.
Umuofia’s prestige lies on its highly intricate network of hierarchy, traditions, and its padlock of strong and influential people. Its powerful bundle of war force and amazing pool of magicians, priests and medicine men makes it clear that Umuofia has been highly noted as sophisticated and intimidating by its neighboring clans. Umuofia’s high achievements and prosperity has been dominated by the epicenter of its structure: Its religious cult and consequently, its enthusiastic followers. This society immensely gives importance and pays a resilient attention on its religion. There is a corresponding unpitying consequence for anything that is against to their sacred oral tradition — this society is highly sensitive on anything that falls on their notion of threat and any breaches in their security: Twins are snatched from their parents and are forsaken alive in the Evil Forest; Ogbanjes[Changelings; children who repeatedly die and return to their mother to be reborn] are severely injured at their demise, violently dragged through their ankle on the ground, and sent to the Evil Forest. Those who suffer from severe sickness, the earth goddess’ outrage are obstructed to die on the village, but are likewise sent to the Evil Forest, tied to the trees and forsaken to be pounced by the birds of prey. People who committed suicide are buried straight to the Evil Forest. The cruelest execution of the gods can be obeyed without any enquiries by the instructed. May it be an order to kill innocent children, or an exile of a man who commits murder in a communal scale.
The society’s illuminated grandeur will not be fervent without the understanding of one of the most respected and intimidated individual in this part of Africa. Okonkwo has played a perennial role on the popularity of the clan, and conversely, its unforgettable destruction. He has been considered as one of the most coveted warriors in the village of Umuofia and even beyond. Contributing to his clan’s superiority in the field of war and wrestling, he has brought home no less than five human heads, possessed two barns full of yams, three wives and claimed two titles in his lifetime. Perhaps Okonkwo’s appearance has also contributed to his success:
“He is a tall, and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very severe look.”
Other fighters who have been shaded by the shadow of Okonkwo might have run away the first time they have seen him. All of this would not happen if he has not initiated to tap seeds of toils to the authorities. One of Okonkwo’s greatest characteristics is his notion of perfection. Though it has some certain advantages and disadvantages, this notion has brought him confidence to interact with the superiors. Okonkwo’s wealth is nothing without Nwakibie’s help. This rich man has three huge barns, nine wives and thirty children and has given Okonkwo eight hundred seed of yams to start from. Okonkwo’s weakness has been overshadowed by his strength. One cannot recognize his affection for showing them means that he is weak. He has deeply-grieved his father, Unoka’s softness and disliked everything that he longed for.
“He was not afraid of war…unlike his father he could stand the look of blood.”
Unoka is precisely a coward man for he could not even take the sight of blood. It is not only the cowardice that Okonkwo has hated on his father; he has also hated his laziness. There comes an instance when a man called Okoye meets Unoka to settle his huge amount of debt:
“Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father.”
Achebe was able to create a character that affirms the darkness of Okonkwo’s feeling to his father, deeply triggering hatred which is capable of determining his and his tribe’s imminent fate. Okonkwo’s first son, Nyowe has a characteristic that has a correspondence to his grandfather; his insipient laziness boiled his father’s heart that Okonkwo regarded him as an efulefu [a worthless man]. Not only that he hated him because of that: Nyowe’s perception is rather effeminate – he was aware that his father’s measure of manliness (a man is a man if he is brave and violent) but he prefers to be soft and to splurge to be carried away by her mother’s stories rather than his father’s masculine parables. It is on the last part of the novel when Nyowe’s faith is challenged by the arrival of Christianity. His father has been enraged when he knew that he is joining the flock of missionaries on a newly-built church. Okonkwo does not consider Nyowe as his son because of these offensive factors. He reckons that there can never be any religion that is eligible to dominate the village, but the religion that has originated from Umuofia.
Ikemefuna’s exsistence is rather an exception: though he is an adopted lad, Okonkwo has felt that he is his genuine son, far from his feeling to Nyowe. Ikemefuna’s might astounds Okonkwo’s inward feeling. Sometimes he goes with Okonkwo to ancestral conventions, like a son, who carries his stool and a goatskin bag. He lives just on the age of Nyowe and they have been bestfriends because of Ikemefuna’s brilliance; and spent time with each other. However, Okokwo’s faith to the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves has directed him to soon end Ikemefuna’s life by cutting him with his machete outside of Umuofia when he was about to return to Mbaino, his homeland. Okonkwo’s appetite has been affected for months; and he is not able to sleep for nights ever since. Nyowe’s fear to his father, improved.
“He felt like a drunken giant walking with the limbs of a mosquito.”
There can be something whimsical that Okonkwo longs to happen. He wishes Ezinma, daughter of his wife Ekwefi, to just become a boy. Of all of his remaining children, Okonkwo has not seen the skill and characteristics of a man, only in his daughter. Never have Okonkwo took care of the sick but on the sickness of Ezinma. She has been regarded by a village medicine man as an ogbanje. Unless its iyi-uwa[a special kind of stone which forms the link between ogbanje and the spirit world] is found and destroyed, the child will die. And her father has been more eager to find and destroy the stone than everyone else. In the end, he has been successful to find the ogbanje’s iyi-uwa.
The religion that has been originated from Umuofia has several weaknesses as far as the real world is concerned. The evil forest is a piece of treachery; second, the iyi-uwa is fake; third, the Christians didn’t die when the people expected them so they were able to enjoy their life with the people struggling to think behind.
Okonkwo could have dragged the clan from the colonizers had he not committed a crime against the clan’s earth goddess, and be exiled to the village of Mbaino. He could have saved the entire clan, its cultural prestige and religious taboo had he not affirmed on his emotion to kill a sixteen-year-old lad during his (the boy) father’s funeral. [Ezeudu, one of the greatest warriors, and consequently, the oldest of all the men in Umuofia had not even seen the ugly fate of his son.]
The irony lies on the fact that this nine-villaged part of Africa would soon be primarily unconscious of its virtual defeat, and thenceforth, its gradual falling apart. The intervention of the Westerners, particularly the Europeans signals the loss of ignition of the once-powerful clan. This crucial, yet a disappointing event for the Umuofia tribe unfortunately coincides with the temporary settlement of Okonkwo on a remote village of Mbaino.
Christian Religion has been the most powerful silent-killer of the prestige of the Umuofia clan. This is the European’s invisible primary weapon which smoothly softened the strength of the prefects of the tribe. The whites initially appeared on the second part of the novel with the villager’s conjecture that they are some foreign people having a serious disease of leper or having manifestations of being albinos. The villagers even reckoned that the medium of transportation of the foreigners is fanciful. They refer to the European’s bicycles which they actually call as “iron horses”. Soon, this material thing will serve as one of the attractions of the conversion of some clan members that the whites emphasized that the villagers will be allowed to ride on those “iron horses” when they affirm to change their religion. Other attractions that the Europeans establish are the infrastructures such as churches and schools.
The whites aimed not just to increase the number of Christians in Africa, but also to bring their cultural, and societal influences to the pool of the innocent clans. Mr. Brown recognized the importance of educating the Umuofian people, which he thought will also help to increase the number of converts, as well as the ameliorated breaking of the language barrier between the clan and the whites.
Sorry this is incredibly long but this book is amazing! I read it in high school and ended up buying it and reading again. So good.