Things Fall Apart
Jordan Knoke English 102 Ember Smith 21 June 2010 Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe writes a fascinating book, Things Fall Apart, where he talks about the struggle of a man, Okonkwo, who lives between the pride of his culture and the pride of his manhood. Achebe is from, where the novel originates, Nigeria. Achebe has been one of the most influential and important authors in African history. It is very important to get a view from a native African’s point of view: a person who has seen what has gone on and experienced the trials and wars of Nigeria and other African countries.
The Igbo religion was the primary religion in the village where the story is set. Okonkwo who has been in the village of Umofia for his entire life, starts to see the tribe transpire and shift away from its normal beliefs. This happens when Christian missionaries arrive in the country to try and turn the people of Umofia and other tribes to their religion of Christianity. Nigeria during this time was in difficult times because they were under the rule by Great Britain. Achebe does a wonderful job in the book describing how much of an influence the outsiders had.
The culture, religion, ethics, spirit, war, peace, and labor are some of the words that describe this book in a nutshell. Things Fall Apart is a book of knowledge and discipline. These two characteristics are an underlying occurrence in the book. Okonkwo is man who displays both of these qualities, thus, which leads to his downfall. Chinua Achebe, known for his bestselling novels, poems, and essays, was born in 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria (Gerard). Achebe has been known for five great books, but the most read and talked about has been Things Fall Apart.
Achebe’s books have been translated in some fifty languages. Especially in Africa and his homeland of Nigeria, Achebe is looked upon like a God and somebody that people can look up to. Achebe was very bright in his early years as a child; he began to learn English when he was only eight years old (Achebe). In 1948, Achebe went to University College in Nigeria to initially study medicine, but something made him change his mind (Achebe). He changed his major to English literary studies to practice the skills of becoming a writer and learn about the practices of English culture.
After graduating from University College, Achebe went on to become a producer for a Nigerian broadcasting company. It was not till after that, in London, that Achebe would truly find his talent of writing. One of his teachers in London had requested Achebe to publish and write the book, Things Fall Apart. The timing of the book could not have been any better because Great Britain had control over Nigeria and was severely pressured into colonizing the country. Within ten years of this conflict, Achebe published the book.
It set off a vibe that usually does not go off when someone publishes a book. This book did just that. Things Fall Apart is the view from a small Nigerian village that sees its principles and doctrines taken over outsiders from another country. From a Nigerian who has probably seen this in happen in real life is very important to the people of Africa. For someone like Achebe to tell the story of Africans and how they live, eat, drink, and worship Gods tells the whole world how an everyday African lives.
When a country rules over a territory or a certain land it can have a strangle on the people of that village, tribe, or colony. Chinua Achebe describes the setting of the story beautifully. In the village of Umofia men, women, and children are taught to be tough minded. This is the case for Okonkwo. A warrior who is tough, strong, disciplined, and well liked in his tribe. Achebe realizes the struggles and pains that Nigerians and other Africans go through. They struggle with money, time, and personal problems. These personal problems could be with a family member or it could be with their Gods or ancestors.
This is why Achebe decided to write a book of this nature: To ensure the people of Nigeria of nation building, economic building, and strong government. Two years after the book was written, Great Britain gave Nigeria its independence from them (Nigeria). This colossal achievement for the people of Nigeria gave them a new start in life; a start that would allow them to be free and have the political and ethical freedom to do as they choose. Achebe has been one of the most inspirational and influential writers during his time because of his obvious background.
Nigeria will probably never produce someone as important as Achebe ever again. Learning the process of becoming a writer for Achebe was definitely hard work. Growing up for Achebe was very difficult; the conditions had to have been rough in the country of Nigeria where poverty and sickness were widely recognized. To grow up to be a man that he is now, that has been one of the greater achievements that any writer has achieved. Achebe’s parents: Janet and Isaiah Achebe were very influential on his life. Isaiah Achebe was a teacher at the Chuch Missionary Society in Nigeria (Achebe).
It is always important to have great idols and parents to look up to for that parent to set an example on their child so they can have a great life ahead of them. Achebe wrote five major books in his career: Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). All five of these major works have something in common. They all have the same interest in African society and how religion, domestication, and nations collide with the outside world or within different countries.
Achebe has done his part over the past 50 years, providing readers from all over the world the history, culture, and background that African society has been founded on for thousands of years. Since Achebe has settled down the past 10 or 20 years, he has received recognition and awards for his outstanding writing. He has received numerous doctorates and is an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1999, Achebe was honored by being appointed to the U. N Population Fund; Achebe’s works throughout his career was also translated in 40 different languages (Achebe).
In the story, Things Fall Apart, a man, Okonkwo struggles with his own tendencies and mishaps that cost him in the end of the story. Achebe, a native African, writing this book about the culture and life of a certain village in Nigeria was huge. It was huge because it was the first major novel written by an African about Africa. Challenges about the novel speak of the Western influence of Europe, such as Great Britain on African colonies and countries. The work of this book came around the time of decolonization, where western European countries gave independence to African counties, including Nigeria.
What Achebe does so well throughout the entire book is that he lets the reader try and figure out if the Ibo people are romanticized or if the outsiders are actually there for some or no reason at all. Achebe lets the reader think and figure out the entire colonialism and impact of the white missionaries in Africa. One of the major themes that gets introduced throughout the book is the theme of war. War was a prominent way of life in Nigeria. If a man were not to fight in tribal wars, then he would be considered a coward that would not get the recognition of other prominent men in the tribes.
Okonkwo, the main character, is a violent warrior who has been perceived as a person who looks for solutions in the way of war, violence, and death instead of resorting to peaceful solutions. The violence that Okonkwo shows to his friends, sons, daughters, and wives leads to the destruction of his image and reputation. Okonkwo also has a problem with softness and not being manly enough. Growing up, Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, was soft and gentle. He was not viewed as a warlike person or someone who would be a warrior of the tribes. Okonkwo did not want to be like this.
He wanted to be the head of his household, also called obi, and wanted to be the person who killed the most men in war. That was his objective growing up in the village of Umofia. A man who does not back down, does not show his weaknesses, and does not want to lose no matter what. War has always been a way of life in this village. Fighting other colonies and tribes has been going on for thousands of years and will probably never stop. This is why Okonkwo portrays himself as a warlike person who does not like to show his softer side. The other theme that shows itself numerous times in the book is peace.
Again Okonkwo struggles to find the connection within him to find peace. Peace is a tough thing to find if someone does not try hard enough to use it in the necessary scenarios. With his violent ways and backgrounds Okonkwo does not have that inner peace that could settle him down or resolve to a softer situation. He struggles mightily with the thought of peace being achieved. The situation changes before Okonkwo’s very eyes and the others of Umofia that the outside world is wanting to change the way people live in Africa. The downfall of Okonkwo’s life is derived between war and peace.
Obtaining peace and fighting wars against other countries brings fate. It may not always be easy, but at the end of the day peace is given and a country is set free of captivity. The country of Nigeria has long been a country of disarray and in development. It has been a country of poverty and sickness. 250 ethnic tribes call Nigeria home. The three most major tribes are Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa (Nigeria). Igbo, of course, is the main tribe that the book speaks of. Located in the western part of Africa, Nigeria is home to savannas, tropical forests, and coastal wetlands.
Farming is a very important way of life in Nigeria, as with each country in Africa. Nigeria covers an area close to 360,000 square miles; it is also twice the size of the state of California. The political state of Nigeria consists of thirty-six states. The capital of Nigeria is Abuja (Nigeria). It has been the capital since 1991. Nigeria is strong in ethnicity. The primary religions in the country are Muslim and Christians. These two religions make up about 90% of the ethnicity in Africa (Curry). However, between the two religions comes hardships and violence.
Differences between beliefs of the two can present a problem, especially when they are two totally different ways of belief. When Great Britain began to get involved with nations in Africa, it set its eyes on Nigeria. It all began in 1887 when British forces began to surge on the eastern coast of Africa. Sir George Goldie, founder of the Royal Niger Company acquired the interior of Nigeria. Influence of British cultures and traditions was way too much of a factor in countries such as Nigeria. This influence set the basis for rule over the country by establishing the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1900 (Curry).
Through hardships and trying times, Nigeria was a country with one of the highest population rates and also a high rate of disease and poverty. In 1960 Nigeria became an independent member of the British Commonwealth. Then in 1963, becoming a republic. Nigeria’s first elected president ever to take over was Nnamdi Azikiwe (Curry). Things Fall Apart was probably one of the most interesting books to read because the language, history, and spirituality. These characteristics are what make Achebe’s book spectacular. The way he uses words makes him one of the best authors ever.
The life of a man such as Okonkwo to end in such tragedy is always a shame. Especially when the main character who sees his village turn for the worst after British missionaries convert men, women, and children to Christianity. This is when we saw the rise and fall of a man who wanted to see his homeland keep its same values and not have outsiders come in and take everything over. Okonkwo was a main of strength, courage, and honor. These are the qualities that made him one of the most powerful and warrior-like men in the village. Achebe always does a wonderful job of portraying the use of a man and use of a woman.
Men were obviously the more powerful and head of the house. Women, on the other hand, were basically servants and did not really hold that much authority. Achebe does a great job to focus on Okonkwo and how much his children and wives respect and how they are afraid of him. That’s how much a man can have an influence on others. Works Citied “Achebe, Chinua. ” Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of World Literature. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2009. 4-8. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 June 2010. Curry, Tim. “Nigeria. ” Countries and Their Cultures. Ed. Carol R. Ember and Melvin Ember. Vol. . New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. 1624-1642. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 June 2010. Gerard, Albert S. “Achebe, Chinua (1930-). ” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Ed. Suzanne M. Bourgoin. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. “Nigeria. ” Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. 11th ed. Vol. 2: Africa. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 423-439. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 June 2010. “Things Fall Apart. ” Literary Themes for Students: War and Peace. Ed. Anne Marie Hacht. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 519-534. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 June 2010.