Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe?s Things Fall Apart is a narrative story that follows the life of an African man called Okonkwo. The setting of the book is in eastern Nigeria, on the eve of British colonialism in Africa. The novel illustrates Okonkwo?s struggles, triumphs, and his eventual downfall, all of which basically coincide with the Igbo?s society?s struggle with the Christian religion and British government. In this essay I will give a biographical account of Okonwo, which will serve to help understand that social, political, and economic institutions of the Igbos.
At the beginning of the novel Okonkwo was a fairly wealthy and well-respected member of the Igbo society, but it had not always been that way for him. Okonkwo?s father, Unoka, had been a lazy man who would rather play his flute than take care of his crops. Unoka was said to be a charming man, and was able to borrow large amounts of money from his friends, but was never able to pay it back. As a result, Okonkwo has grown up very poor and ashamed of his lazy father. At one point in the book, Okonkwo remembers hearing one of his playmates calling his father an ?agbala,? which was the word for woman, but all described a man who had taken not titles (13). Okonkwo never forgets this, and actually develops a deep-seated fear that people will think that he is weak like his father. As I mentioned, Okonkwo became very well known, and his wealth and prestige rested solely on his own personal achievements. Okonkwo had received no inheritance from his poor father, no land and no money. As a young man, Okonkwo had been very successful wrestler, and as he grew older he became a well-known warrior. He was said to have brought home five human heads, which was a great achievement even for men who were much older that he was. At the beginning of the story, Okonkwo had obtained two titles, and had the respect of every man from all nine villages of Umuofia. Symbols of his wealth and prestige were his family and his compound. As I mentioned earlier, Okonwo had received no inheritance, and at the time of this story Okonkwo is still fairly young, and the fact that he had three wives, several children, and a very productive piece of land showed that Okonkwo was a very diligent worker. ?Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness (13).? The paragraph goes on to describe this fear as deep and intimate, a fear that he would resemble his father. Okonkwo had developed a very short and violent temper that was immediately triggered in response to actions that he deemed to be weak or actions that questioned his authority. Okonkwo despised and abhorred anything that was lazy, weak, or womanly like his father, and was often rather cruel to his oldest son, Nwoye, because he saw similarities in the two men.
The second chapter of the novel begins with the town crier announcing a meeting in the morning. The meeting was called because a man of Umuofia?s wife had been unjustly killed, and he wanted justice. It was decided that Okonkwo would go to the village where the accused lived and ask for one virgin and one young boy to make up for the death, or else war would be waged. The villages of Umuofia were feared because of their great successes in battle. Okonkwo returns with a young virgin, who is given to the man whose wife was murdered, and he is asked to keep the young boy until the Oracle tells the elders what to do with him. The young boy?s name is Ikemfuna, and he lives with Okonkwo?s family for three years before the men of the village decide to call upon him. During the three years Ikemfuna becomes a part of Okonkwo?s family, and Okonkwo grows quite fond of him. Okonkwo?s oldest son, Nwoye, also becomes quite...
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