Things Fall Apart

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Indigenous Literature: Essay 1
Okonkwo’s downfall in Things Fall Apart can be attributed more to his own shortcomings than to external factors. Discuss Chinua Achebe’s 1959 masterpiece, “Things Fall Apart” is centred on the rise and eventual fall of one of Umuofia’s most fabled warriors, Okonkwo. Mighty though he is, Okonkwo’s downfall is mostly attributed to his own underlying flaws rather than those of his social environment. In this piece I intend to prove that Okonkwo’s suicide was not the sole result of external factors such as the introduction of white settlement. Okonkwo’s inability to control his over-exaggerated masculine persona and blatant disregard for his personal ‘chi’ causes his eventual exile and loss of respect from his fellow tribesman. Okonkwo’s stoic demeanour in the face of social change turns the once mighty warrior into a defeated outsider, who in the end takes his own life rather than learning how to adapt. It is thus Okonkwo’s inability to venture from his volatile norm and adapt to a more subtle and polished society that is his ultimate undoing.

Okonkwo’s overly manly personality can be attributed as one of the leading causes of his eventual downfall within his society and his eventual exile. David Heogberg, an associate professor of English at Indiana University, discusses the concept of ‘cultural violence’ and describes it as being the “[specific] violence that is encouraged by the beliefs and traditions of [any] given culture” (Hoegberg 1999). Achebe’s Ibo culture is portrayed as that of ritualised violence that promotes the abandonment of twins in the forest and corporeal punishment to those that break sacred rituals. Achebe constantly supplies the audience with an image of brutality of Okonkwo well above that of the realms of cultural violence. A mere four pages into the novel and readers already have the imagery of a ‘thuggish’ man that “[when] angry and [cannot] not get his words out… would use his fists [instead]” (Achebe...
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