Things Fall Apart Critical Lens

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The essence of a literature, in most cases, parallels life’s mysteries. As Ernest Hemingway put it, “To be truly memorable, a book must have at its core one of life’s great quests: the quest for love, truth, or power.” In other words, the very heart of a text must show its readers the pursuit of self-fulfillment. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, reveals through the customs and traditions of Ibo culture, as well as the choices and consequences made by each character that a body of work is only worthwhile if there is a search for love, truth, or power.

First, the customs and traditions of Ibo culture illustrate that a novel is only memorable if it sets forth a quest for truth. For example, Obierika sought truth after burning down Okonkwo’s obi along with several of his possessions immediately preceding the inadvertent homicide Okonkwo had committed. He was conflicted because Ibo society dictated to him that for every offense there is a punishment whether it is deserved or not. As the elders said, “If one finger brought oil it soiled the others.” Although he carried out the decreed law Obierika still sought truth in this conflict of ethics. Another example occurred when Okonkwo murdered his adopted son, Ikemefuna. The custom and tradition of Ibo culture says to do as you are told, but when Obierika questions Okonkwo’s decision to kill his son Okonkwo justifies the homicide using the faith he has in his religion/culture. He says, “A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm.” Okonkwo could not see the truth of this situation in that he killed his son and it was ethically wrong; he was blinded by faith in this case. Finally, Okonkwo is humbled by the truth after speaking with Uchendu. Uchendu exclaims, “Nneka – Mother is Supreme.” This is said to Okonkwo to remind him of the importance of women in Ibo society as well as to put into perspective his banishment. Uchendu repeats the song, “For whom is it...
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