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Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

By clairevheeswijk Jan 10, 2012 687 Words
Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

18. Why do you think Okonkwo kills himself at the end of the novel? Okonkwo commits suicide because there seemed to be no other way out for him. He had lost his place in his own culture that was now conquered by the Church and its Christian values. He knew that the Europeans eventually would execute him because he killed the messenger. Being a proud man, he preferred to take his fate in his own hands and commit suicide, instead of letting the Europeans control hem. Furthermore, he just could not bear the idea that his people were betrayed and would live in oppression. He used to trust in his tribe, but now the Europeans have broken his people, a disgrace he simply could not accept.

12. A famous proverb quoted in the novel states: “When a man says yes, his chi says yes also”. What does this proverb mean? To what extent is this true in the case of Okonkwo? The Chi is an individual’s personal god. In Ibo cosmology, the chi inside you guides your actions. So your chi is responsible for everything you do good or wrong, for your fortunes and misfortunes. The proverb “When a man says yes, his chi says yes also”, means that individuals can determine their own destinies because one’s willpower can have an impact on someone’s Chi. In Okonkwo’s case this is true because he is more or less responsible for his own death. Furthermore, he already became famous in his early years being the greatest wrestler in the country. That was not just all luck. He had a good chi and when we apply this to the proverb we can say that Okonkwo said yes very determinedly: so his chi agreed. When the story continues we discover that several things happen that contradict this belief, what really shocked Okonkwo.

9. Identify what you interpret to be the major themes of Things Fall Apart. One of the most important themes is ‘how people deal with changes in society’. ‘Things Fall Apart’ is the story of a culture on the verge of change where the ancient tribal beliefs are threatened by the culture and religion of the European invaders; it is a struggle between change and tradition. This was a personal struggle as well; people had to decide whether they accepted those changes or tried to hold on to the traditional ways of living. This choice was very often linked to an individual’s place in society. The outcasts in the Igbo society for example, found a way out of their subordination in the values of Christianity. But powerful people like Okonkwo for example, were afraid of losing their social status. Okonkwo does not accept the new political and social changes because he thinks they are not manly, what brings us to another important theme of the story, masculinity. Okonkwo is really obsessed by his masculinity. He even thinks that tenderness is a sign of weakness and looked down at his own father and son because he thought they were too feminine. Okonkwo himself was a respected man, known very well in his own town, what in his eyes was extremely important. The fact that his father was just a regular man without special titles or a high social status, makes him less masculine in Okonkwo’s eyes. Okonkwo even started do dislike his own son because he and his father were too much alike. For us, his views on masculinity were quite strange because according to Okonkwo being masculine equaled being aggressive. Therefore he often beats his wives and at one point even tried to kill them. Okonkwo just did not want to appear weak and did not want to fail, but of course, just like everybody, he is afraid. Fear is also one of the important themes in the novel. Because he fears losing his strong masculinity, he tries to ignore his feelings. When fear and frustration for not being able to save his tribe overwhelmed him, he saw no other way out and eventually committed suicide.

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