Things Fall Apart Essay

Things Fall Apart Essay

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Things Fall Apart: An Evaluation In “Things Fall Apart,” ;Chinua Achebe tells two different stories at the same time. One is of Okonkwo, the villager whose rise to power is halted because of all of his misfortunes. The other is of Okonkwo’s village, Umuofia, and its struggle to hold on to its cultural tradition while facing colonialism from the West. The title, “Things Fall Apart,” ;describes perfectly what happens to both Okonkwo and his village. Okonkwo’s life falls apart and as a result, he commits suicide by hanging himself. The cultural tradition of Umuofia falls apart, and becomes influenced by the West. In “Things Fall Apart,” ;Achebe uses Okonkwo and the village’s falling out to show how African culture, as well as other cultures around the world, suffered as a result of Westernization. In the book, Achebe focuses mainly on the character of Okonkwo. Okonkwo’s story follows the general pattern of a Greek tragedy. He experiences many successes in the beginning, but everything eventually comes crashing down on him. His early life is the typical success story. He starts poor, but works hard to earn everyone’s respect. From the beginning he is disgusted with his father. He is a lazy old man who borrows money and never pays it back. Okonkwo realizes that he does not want to be like his father, and it is this hatred that drives him to work hard. After his father’s death, Okonkwo pays off his debts, and starts his long journey to the top of the clan. In a short time, Okonkwo’s hard work pays off and he becomes one of the village’s most respected members. He earns three out of the four village titles. He is recognized as the greatest warrior in Umuofia. He takes three wives and has many children. He is almost to the top of the clan when his journey to greatness starts to crumble. Because of a scuffle with one of the nearby villages, Okonkwo is given a boy to take care of. The boy, Ikemefuna, shows many similarities to Okonkwo and they become very close. He sees Okonkwo as a father figure, and even calls him “father.” ;Okonkwo even puts him before his true son, Nwoye. But one day the village elders decide that he has gotten too close and that he needs to be killed. Okonkwo eventually deals the final blow that kills Ikemefuna, to show that he is not weak. The grief that follows starts Okonkwo on his downfall. The next major event that led to Okonkwo’s downfall took place at the funeral of one of the elders in the clan. When the group of men fired their guns to give the man his last salute, Okonkwo’s gun exploded and a piece of iron dug into a young boy’s heart, killing him. Even though the death was accidental, Okonkwo was forced to flee from the clan. He had committed a crime against the earth goddess, and would have to leave the village for seven years. Okonkwo and his family fled to his mother’s land. Okonkwo had lost everything he had worked so hard for, and could not work to get it back for seven years. While in his exile, missionaries came to his motherland. These white men greatly disturbed Okonkwo. He especially became angry when he heard that his oldest son, Nwoye, was one of the converts to the new faith. His resentment for the missionaries grew, and he was appalled when he returned to Umuofia after his seven-year exile. He became extremely distressed when the men of Umuofia decided not to go to war with the white men. When five court messengers came to stop a meeting in the village, Okonkwo finally released all of his anger. He beheaded the head messenger and thus finished his downfall. Okonkwo’s life finally fell completely apart as his body was found dangling from a tree. The village of Umuofia fell apart in another way. When the white missionaries arrived, the villagers did not take them very seriously. They refused to see the missionaries as a threat and this led to their demise. However, because of the strength of the west, the village’s falling apart might have been inevitable. Very few civilizations, if any, were able to withstand the threat of Westernization. It was a force that was too powerful and sophisticated for such common people to fight. Achebe’s book shows how Westernization led to the demise of many ancient cultures. The reason this book sold so many copies, I believe, is because it can be applied not only to Africa, but to all of the other cultures around the world that were ruined by Westernization. In “Things Fall Apart,” ;Achebe not only describes the life and death of one man, but also the life and death of the world’s many different cultures, as a result of Westernization.

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