Plot Summary

Things Fall Apart is written from the 3rd person omniscient narrator perspective. From this perspective Achebe sets out to record the more intimate details of African life. His main study is Okonkwo. Okonkwo is described as a man of the village of Umuofia in Nigeria. He has three wives, is hardworking farmer and a stern father, and is proud of his success. His overall ambition in life is to avoid failure and to avoid seeming weak. He is constantly comparing himself to his father (since deceased), who was an idle, lazy debtor and who preferred making music to working the land.

Okonkwo’s fame comes from his skill in wrestling and his kills in battle. He is a man of action—and quick wrath. One of his major faults is his temper, which occasionally gets him into trouble with the village and the gods. However, he has earned two titles and is respected in Umuofia.

The novel may be said to center on Okonkwo, but it does not deal solely with his exploits. It often deviates from his doings to record the details of life in the village prior to the arrival of the Anglican missionaries. Achebe’s work is less a story about a hero and more a snapshot of a time and place, with the character of Okonkwo acting as a window into the world.

Conflict comes mainly through Okonkwo’s struggles to assert himself in the face of fear and failure. This struggle puts him at odds with his son, Nwoye, whose gentle nature causes him to question the more savage customs of the tribe and to distrust his father’s ruthless ways. Fear of seeming weak also causes Okonkwo to cut down his semi-adopted son, Ikemefuna—an act that puts an irreparable rift between him and his son.

Okonkwo is exiled from the village after his gun accidentally goes off during a celebration and kills a clansman. He is allowed to return after seven years. His exile is chronicled briefly in Mbanta, his motherland. During his exile, Anglican missionaries arrive in Nigeria and completely change the nature of native life.

Okonkwo resists the missionaries,...

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