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Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Critical Review Essay

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Updated: Dec 14th, 2021

Things Fall Apart is the first novel of the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Published in 1958, the novel describes the life of a Nigerian village – Iguedo, at the advent of the white colonization in Nigeria. The novel’s main protagonist is Okonkwo, a warrior, and a consistent traditionalist, who fell victim to circumstances. Okonkwo was entrusted with raising Ikemefuna, a child from a hostile village who was taken as a hostage. Feeling personally attached to Ikemefuna, Okonkwo never showed his true emotions, and fearing appearing weak in front of his village, he killed the boy. After another incident, in which he killed a clansman by accident, Okonkwo was exiled from the village with his family for seven years, after which he returned to find white people with missionary work in his village. Okonkwo refused to reconcile with the new order and eventually killed himself.

Although Iguedo is a fictional village, the novel took a realistic approach toward depicting the life of the Nigerian tribes. In that regard, Iguedo can be seen as an example of a traditional Nigerian tribe with a distinctive social structure. The relations with Umuofia, the clan to which Iguedo belonged, might be seen as a representation of a simple political system within the Nigerian tribes at the time, which included wars, peaceful settlements, and mediations through an authoritative party (the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves) (Achebe, 1996, p. 9). A form of democracy was also present in such an establishment, where the main political and social aspects were determined through clan meetings.

The culture of the tribe that was depicted in the novel was of the Igbo culture. This culture still exists and many of its elements were realistically depicted in the novel. One element can be seen in the absence of a ruler in the tribe, where “decisions [were] made by including almost everyone in the village” (Froiland, 2010), an aspect that was truthfully reflected in the novel (Achebe, 1996, p. 19). Additionally, the religion was represented by showing that the highest level of divine beings is the supreme god, or “Chukwu”, a loving father who should be feared when doing against his will (Achebe, 1996; Froiland, 2010).

The main conclusion that can be drawn from reading about the culture in the novel is that despite considering the culture as non-static and adaptive to changes, the example of Okonkwo shows the opposition of tradition to such changes. In that regard, the colonization in the novel can be considered as one of the main driving forces of change to which Okonkwo was so resistant.

Accordingly, the questions that might be raised are concerned with the overall idea of cultural change. Does the author’s view support holding on to the culture and the tradition despite some of its negative aspects? Examples of negative aspects can be seen in the sacrifice process, the role of women, and others.

Analyzing the novel on a larger scale, it can be stated that the ideas of cultural diversity, multiculturalism, and globalism do not seem to fit into the idea of tradition opposing changes. The latter can be seen in that one of the consequences of diversity, multiculturalism, and globalism is gradually erasing the distinctive features of each culture and mixing them into one large melting pot of various cultures.

Finally, the ideas that can be used in class are mainly related to showing examples of early social structures, groups, and social roles. In that regard, gender in the novel can be used to show the way social roles are shaped in such a society. Additionally, colonization as an agent of change can be analyzed and paralleled to other agents in the context of modern society.

References

Achebe, C. (1996). Things Fall Apart (1st Anchor Books ed.): Heinemann.

Froiland, A. (2010). IBO (IGBO). The Africa Guide. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" Critical Review." December 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinua-achebes-things-fall-apart-critical-review/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" Critical Review." December 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinua-achebes-things-fall-apart-critical-review/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" Critical Review'. 14 December.

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