First Year Writing
13 December 2010
Things Fall Apart, But Once Were Together
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, is a novel first published in 1959. It tells the story of an African tribe, Umuofia, with specific focus on the character Okonkwo. Okonkwo is a strong, respected, great warrior in the clan. His character is quite complex, being one of great ambition to be better than his father, but also one of cowardice in need of power. In his persistence for greatness, Okonkwo makes many mistakes, including brutality towards his wives, killing his adopted son, and even being sent into exile for seven years. In the meantime, missionaries come to Umuofia to spread the word of God, and save these “savage” people from their current beliefs. The fact is, however, that Umuofia is a tribe of peaceful people. They aren’t savages, but simply have a different culture and set of beliefs. Things Fall Apart teaches that the cultural past of the Umuofia clan is peaceful, but is torn apart by the missionaries who view them as barbarians.
Umuofia is a peaceful tribe in the area of the lower Niger that believes in kinship. They have many tribal celebrations together. One of those is the Week of Peace. During this week, Okonkwo’s youngest wife leaves without preparing the afternoon meal, which enrages Okonkwo. When she comes back, he beats her severely, violating the beliefs of the Earth Goddess and disrupting the Week of Peace. The tribe leaders take this very seriously, because they believe that peace is needed to please the Goddess so that their crops will grow. Ezeani, the priest of the Earth Goddess, comes to scold Okonkwo, saying, “We live in peace with our fellows to honor our great goddess of the earth without whose blessings our crops will not grow. You have committed a great evil” (Achebe 30). Okonkwo must then make a sacrifice to atone for his wrongdoing. Clearly, this tribe thinks the idea of peace and kinship is...