Things Fall Apart: Individuality vs. Nationality

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Of the many themes that appear in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, individuality versus nationality becomes a central topic as the story progresses and develops. With the invasion and colonization of the European missionaries, Okonkwo’s nationality and contributions to society are called into question. Achebe explains the idea of nationality over individuality by showing that society is the precursor to individuality. Examining the life of the protagonist, Okonkwo, before and after his resistance exemplifies this key idea in Things Fall Apart. Without society, there would be no individuality. Okonkwo’s characteristics include praise and reputation, which his tribe gives him for throwing the Cat. Achebe explains Okonkwo’s reputation, stating, “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements” (Chapter 1). While he may have accomplished these acts, society noticed that these actions made him worthy of fame and ultimately formed Okonkwo into the person he is. However, their culture not only creates respect and honor. The Ibo culture acts a source of customs and criticism for its constituents. For example, in a conversation about other villages, Okonkwo and Obreika’s elder brother examine opposing customs and criticize them because it is not how they normally are taught to trade. They explain, “All their customs are upside-down. They do not decide bride-price as we do, with sticks. They haggle and bargain as if they were buying a goat or cow in the market. That is very bad.” (Chapter 8) This quote exemplifies the prejudice that the society they live in produces. This idea of superiority to others later takes a role in Okonkwo’s life as he visits other cultures and discovers their customs, and even before he resisted the changes in his culture. Okonkwo’s own traditions and customs shape the way that he acts both before and after his resistance to change. When looking at Okonkwo’s life before he

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