Things fall apart

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Chinua Achebe's, Things Fall Apart, is about the tragic life of Okonkwo, a well respected Ibo clansman. The novel is tragic because Okonkwo was a great man, and unfortunately he is destroyed by his own weaknesses. Okonkwo's downfall was that he feared of becoming like his father, who was really weak and according to Okonkwo, a "woman." After all Okonkwo is his father's blood, and his weaknesses are innate.
Okonkwo was one of the greatest men of his time. Okonkwo was a hardworking, successful yam farmer and a fierce warrior. Okonkwo's hard working ethics had brought him great success in farming and wrestling. Okonkwo was a successful farmer because he "worked daily on his farms from cock-crow until the chickens went to roost. He was a very strong man and rarely felt fatigue." At a very young age, Okonkwo had brought great news in his town, he defeated Amilinze the Cat. He became popular in all nine villages. "Okonkwo's fame had grown like a bush-fire in the harmattan." And many described him as being "slippery as a fish" in his fight against Amilinze, who was unbeaten for seven years. Even though Okonkwo was young when he defeated Amilinze, he had earned his fame across the nine villages. Starting from scratch, Okonkwo had two barns full of yams, two titles from inter-tribal wars, and three wives, thus becoming a great man at a very young age.
Okonkwo was the exact opposite of his father. His father was a complete failure. Even at the time of his death, he was heavily at debt and had taken no titles. "Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness." Okonkwo feared of failing, eventually his tragedy began when he had killed a boy accidentally. Everyone had come to celebrate the life of Ezuedu and the boy was his son. All his hard work had been shaken, and nothing was able to p

Things Fall Apart

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Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

One of Chinua Achebe’s many achievements in his acclaimed first novel, Things Fall Apart, is his relentlessly unsentimental rendering of Nigerian tribal life before and after the coming of colonialism. First published in 1958, just two years before Nigeria declared independence from Great Britain, the book eschews the obvious temptation of depicting pre-colonial life as a kind of Eden. Instead, Achebe sketches a world in which violence, war, and suffering exist, but are balanced by a strong sense of tradition, ritual, and social coherence. His Ibo protagonist, Okonkwo, is a self-made man. The son of a charming ne’er-do-well, he has worked all his life to overcome his father’s weakness and has arrived, finally, at great prosperity and even greater reputation among his fellows in the village of Umuofia. Okonkwo is a champion wrestler, a prosperous farmer, husband to three wives and father to several children. He is also a man who exhibits flaws well-known in Greek tragedy: Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. And yet Achebe manages to make this cruel man deeply sympathetic. He is fond of his eldest daughter, and also of Ikemefuna, a young boy sent from another village as compensation for the wrongful death of a young woman from Umuofia. He even begins to feel pride in his eldest son, in whom he has too often seen his own father. Unfortunately, a series of tragic events tests the mettle of this strong man, and it is his fear of weakness that ultimately undoes him. Achebe does not introduce the theme of colonialism until the last 50 pages or so. By then, Okonkwo has lost everything and been driven into exile. And yet, within the traditions of his culture, he still has hope of redemption. The arrival of missionaries in Umuofia, however, followed by representatives of the colonial government, completely disrupts Ibo culture, and in the chasm between old ways and new, Okonkwo is lost forever. Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture. –Alix Wilber

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