Themes of Things Fall Apart

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Custom and Tradition
Okonkwo's struggle to live up to what he perceives as "traditional" standards of masculinity, and his failure adapt to a changing world, help point out the importance of custom and tradition in the novel. The Ibo tribe defines itself through the age-old traditions it practices in Things Fall Apart. While some habits mold tribe members' daily lives, other customs are reserved for special ceremonies. For example, the head of a household honors any male guest by praying over and sharing a kola nut with him, offering the guest the privilege of breaking the nut. They dank palm-wine together, with the oldest person taking the first drink after the provider has tasted it. Ceremonial customs are more elaborate. The Feast of the New Yam provides an illustration. This Feast gives the tribe an opportunity to thank Am, the earth goddess and source of all fertility. Preparations for the Feast include thorough hut-cleaning and decorating, cooking, body painting, and head shaving. Relatives come from great distances to partake in the feast and to drink palm-wine. Then, on the second day of the celebration, the great wrestling match is held. The entire village meets in the village playground, or llo, for the drumming, dancing, and wrestling. The festival continues through the night until the final round is won. Because the tribe views winning a match as a great achievement, the winner earns the tribe's ongoing respect. Tribal custom dictates every aspect of members' lives. The tribe determines a man's worth by the number of titles he holds, the number of wives he acquires, and the number of yams he grows. The tribe acknowledges a man's very being by the gods' approval of him. Without custom and tradition, the tribe does not exist. Choices and Consequences

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo makes a choice early in life to overcome his father's legacy. As a result, Okonkwo gains the tribe's respect through his constant hard work. The tribe rewards him by...
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