Things Fall apart Essay

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Book Evaluation Title: Things Fall Apart Author: Chinua Achebe Setting & Time: Nigeria in the late 1800’s Principal Themes: *Clash of cultures *Need for balance between individual needs and community needs *Fate or Destiny First Published: 1958 Summary: Okonkwo is an angry man whose one goal in life is to succeed his lazy father’s name. He is lead by anger and fear. Okonkwo strives to be a leader in the village of Umuofia. He has three wives, many children, and a large yam crop. Things Fall Apart is a story of Okonkwo’s life and Ibo cultures. Principal Characters: Okonkwo: highly respected in Umuofia, a wealthy farmer of yams, Feared by all, violent Unoka: Okonkwo’s father, lazy & wasteful, failure & laughing stock, Frequently borrowed money and never repaid it, neglected his Family Agbala, the Oracle: the prophet of the Igbo, looked upon for Guidance from all the people of the land Ikemefuna: taken from Mbaino, living with Okonkwo’s family has Become one of his sons, killed by Okonkwo because the Oracle Said so Obierika: Okonkwo’s best friend represents the voice of reason The Story: In the novel, Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is a defiant figure who resists the attempts of the white colonizers to impose on his clan a new religion and social order. Okonkwo's defiance stems from his fear of the white men's destructive potential on the social hierarchy and religion of the clan. Okonkwo's fear is presented when he first encounters the missionaries of the new religion in the village of Mbanta. The interpreter of the white missionary, "...was a man of commanding presence and the clan listened to him". The fact that the clansmen are listening to the interpreter makes Okonkwo fear that some villagers might believe what the missionary is saying. This fear compels Okonkwo to stay, in hopes of chasing the missionaries out of the village. Okonkwo's fear does not subside until several clansmen laugh at the missionaries and he feels there is no danger of anyone being converted. Okonkwo is fearful and violently resistant to the new religion because it has the potential of undermining the life long work of the clan trying to please the gods of its ancestors. If Okonkwo were to accept the new religion, his sacrifices to the gods, like the killing of Ikemfuna, who Okonkwo loved as a son, would have been done in vain. Anyone from the clan who converts to the new religion seems to saying that Okonkwo was wrong in killing Ikemfuna. Also the twins who are stuffed into earthenware pots and left to die in the evil forest would be dying for no justifiable reason. One of Okonkwo's greatest fears about the new religion is that it could destroy the social hierarchy of the clan. "None of his converts was a man whose word was heeded in the assembly of the people. None of them was a man of title. They were mostly the kind of people called efulefu, worthless, empty men". By joining the new religion, these "worthless" men are dismissing the social order of the clan, and gaining respect and power in the new society. In this sense, the underclass of the tribe are having a revolution, where the elitist, title holders in the clan are no longer respected, and the members of the underclass who convert are no longer "worthless " men. If the social hierarchy of the clan no longer existed, Okonkwo would lose his status and respect among the clan. By the end of the novel, many of Okonkwo's fears have been realized, and the social order of the clan is falling apart. The fear of the new religion and government, which causes Okonkwo to take the life of a white official, also causes him to take his own life. Themes & Meanings: *Clash of Cultures: This collision of cultures occurs at both a Personal and a societal level, and the cultural misunderstanding cut both ways. Just as the uncompromising Reverend Smith views Africans as “heathens,” the Igbo initially criticize the Christians and the missionaries as “foolish.” This theme is also illustrated when a Umuofian woman had been killed in Mbaino while she was attending its market. When this happened the Igbo native group decided that the Mbaino could go to war or give Umuofia a young man and young virgin as compensation for the death of the Umuofian woman. *Need for balance between individual and community needs: This theme is illustrated a lot of times in this book. The first time I noticed this was in the beginning when the author was describing Okonkwo’s father, Unoka. Unoka was lazy and very wasteful. He had individual needs but never anything to better himself. Instead of him trying to grow yams and make money, he just “mooched” off of everyone else in the community. Unoka made debts he knew he could not pay. In one part of the book, Okonkwo needed some yams to sow. He asks the wealthiest man in the village, Nwakibie, for some yams. Nwakibie knew that Okonkwo would have never come to him unless he really needed it. *Fate or Destiny: This theme is also played both individual and societal levels. In the story, we are frequently reminded about this theme in reference to chi, the individual’s personal God as well as his ultimate capability and destiny. Okonkwo feels that his chi supports his ambition: “When a man says yes, his chi says yes also. Okonkwo also feels that his chi has let him down. His chi “was not made for great things. A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi…. Here was a man whose chi said nay despite his own affirmation. Reaction: The novel Things Fall Apart is boring at first, but when you get into it and get to know the characters, then that is when it becomes interesting. The best thing to do if you can not pronounce the characters names, just give them a name. For example: If you can not say Okonkwo then just call him Bob. One of the things that I did not like about this book was the fact that during the annual Week of Peace, Okonkwo’s youngest wife, Ojiugo, goes to braid her hair at a friend’s house, forgetting to prepare the afternoon meal or feed her children. When she returns, Okonkwo beats her severely, thereby violating Peace Week. I understand that back then a man could have any amount of women and children and the more he had the merrier. But to me that still gave him no right to hit her. It is sad to say that this still goes on in American and all over the world. BOOK EVALUATION THINGS FALL APART BY: CHINUA ACHEBE

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