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Things Fall Apart and Colonialism

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In Things Fall Apart, written in 1959, Chinua Achebe shows the character Okonkwo struggling with his greatest fear. Unoka, which is Okonkwo’s father was known to be irresponsible and apathetic. He brought stigma to his family and this torments Okonkwo throughout the novel. To prove that he is nothing like his father, Okonkwo does many heinous things to others, showcasing his masculinity. His behaving this way eventually led to his complete downfall, death. Achebe develops Okonkwo’s strong perception of his father to enhance his controversial actions.

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The story occurs in the village of Umuofia. In this village, Okonkwo rose from nothing and became a powerful and noble leader in the clan, on the other hand, he did many bad things. Okonkwo isolated and was cruel to his son, he was very abusive with his wives, he participated in his adopted son’s murder, he killed a dead man’s son, he killed an innocent court messenger, and he took his own life. All of this is stated is to show the recurrent theme of fear in the novel. Okonkwo, who does not want to be anything like his father does many horrendous things to keep up his masculine and powerful image. Although Okonkwo performs these actions to seem fearless to his peers, he is ultimately frightened by the thought of appearing as fearful. Rather than overcoming his fear, he allows it to take over him and forces his actions. The theme of fear in the novel caused characters to behave in obstructive ways.

Things Fall Apart does have many positive aspects about it. The novel successfully describes the way of life of the Ibo culture. It showcases their everyday customs, beliefs, and rituals. Chapter thirteen that describes a funeral reads, “Drums beat violently on all sides and sparks flew out as machetes changed together in warriors’ salutes.” This is one example of how Achebe went into good detail about the Ibo people.

Achebe did successfully achieve his goal of telling the story of Okonkwo while also explaining how the Ibo society was affected by colonialism. He writes about both pre and postcolonialism, in which he showcases the major differences that occurred. Before the white men came, pre-colonialism, the village was persistent with their beliefs and customs, in which they participated in everyday life. Once the men came to the village, postcolonialism, the stronger natives had joined the new religion and helped divide the clan. They introduced a new government, religion, and prison. The Ibo people liked the new money, freedom, and trade that was introduced to them. Achebe effectively explained how colonialism affected the Ibo people.

Achebe’s work was informative to the reader. It teaches about what actually happened in Nigeria to many cultures. Since there was also the story about Okonkwo going on the novel was interesting because as you learned about colonialism, the reader wants to find out what happens to Okonkwo.

Throughout the novel, Okonkwo was challenged by this reoccurring fear of fear, which pushed him to make many mistakes. This fear drove Okonkwo to the complete edge. He was what some consider a tragic hero. He was victorias and a respected leader. However, his tragic flaw pushed him to extremes, leading him to his own suicide. Okonkwo’s actions can be used to teach others that tragedy can come from hypermasculinity and pride. By reading Things Fall Apart the reader should learn that there are always consequences to extreme behavior. 

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