The Struggle Between Tradition and Change

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ENGL 2112
October 17, 2012

In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the reader is taken on a literary journey to a Nigerian tribe, the Umuofia, to experience first-hand the struggles of a warrior named Okonkwo. At first glance, the novel appears to be written for a very specific audience: scholars familiar with Nigerian history, traditions, and culture. However, upon further examination the novel reveals itself to be a striking chronicle of human experiences, universal themes, and timeless struggles that appeal to every human, regardless of familiarity with Nigerian culture. Taken as a whole, the novel appears to be much more than the sum of its parts: syntax, diction, figurative language, imagery, repetition, and symbols. Things Fall Apart is definitely a novel with literary worth. As a story about a culture on the verge of change, Things Fall Apart deals with how the viewpoint and reality of change affect a number of characters. The tension about whether change should be privileged over tradition often contains questions of personal status. Okonkwo, for example, resists the new political and religious orders because he feels that they are not manly and that he himself will not be manly if his agreements to join or even tolerate them. To some extent, Okonkwo’s resistance of cultural change is also due to his fear of being like his father, or in other words, loss his societal status. His sense of self-worth is dependent upon the traditional standards by which society judges him. This system of evaluating the self inspires many of the clan’s outcasts to embrace Christianity. Long scorned, these outcasts find in the Christian value system a refuge from the Igbo cultural values that place them below everyone else. In their new community, these converts enjoy a more elevated status. The villagers in general are caught between resisting and embracing change and they face the dilemma of trying to determine how best to adapt to the reality of change. Many of the...
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