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Things Fall Apart is a title of a novel written by the great author, Libert Chinua Achebe. He was born in November 16th, 1930 in Ogidi, a large village in Nigeria. He learned English at an early age and raised multiculturaly, graduated from a university college called Ibadan in 1953, studied history and theology. His interest concentrated on the indigenous Nigerian cultures. Achebe had lots of contributions in literary movement that discussed the Nigerian tradition and culture of its indigenous people. "He wrote the Novel, Things Fall Apart as a response to novels, such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, that treat Africa as backward cultures in comparison to Europe. Achebe wants to deliver a good understanding of the African culture" (Sparknotes Editors, 2002). Things Fall Apart is set in the 1890's and characterizes the clash between Nigeria's White Colonial government and the traditional culture of the indigenous Ibo people. Achebe's education in English and exposure to European customs has allowed him to capture both the European and the African perspectives on colonial expansion, religion, race, and culture. "His decision to write Things Fall Apart in English is an important one. Achebe wanted this novel to respond to earlier colonial accounts of Africa; his choice of language was thus political" (Sparknotes Editors, 2002). Achebe wanted to achieve cultural revitalization within and through English. Nevertheless, he manages to capture the rhythm of the Ibo language and he integrates Ibo vocabulary into the narrative. Achebe has become renowed throughout the world as a father of modern African literature. "He worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Company for over a decade and later became an English professor at the University of Nigeria. He has also been quite influential in the publication of new Nigerian writers" (Sparknotes Editors, 2002). And he has been active in Nigerian politics since the 1960's and many of his novels address the post-colonial social and political problems that Nigeria still faces.
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Moreover, I would like to discuss briefly the events and the plot regarding the novel, Things Fall Apart. The story mainly mentions the Umuofia clan, which is a lower Nigerian tribe that is part of a consortium of nine connected villages and the main character, Okonkwo the wealthy and respected warrior of the Umuofia clan. His father, Unoka died in disrepute, leaving many village debts unsettled. Okonkwo became a clansman, warrior, father, and family provider extraordinaire. Okonkwo has a son called Nwoye, which he thinks that he will end up a failure like Unoka. Okonkwo takes charge of Ikemefuna, which Umuofia won in a settlement with a neighbouring tribe.
During the week of peace, Okonkwo breaks the rules and accuses his youngest wife Ojiugo because of her negligence that she went out of her hut without telling Okonkwo that she would do so. He beats her up, and tried to clear his mistake to show his repentance, but everyone started talking about the accident between Okonkwo and his wife because it is a shame amongst the community to break the peace of the sacred week. One day, the locusts came to Umuofia and destroyed the fields of yams, but the village excitedly collects them because they are considered as food.
Later, Ogbuefi Ezuedu who is to them a respected village elder, tells Okonkwo that the Oracle has said that Ikemefuna must be killed. Okonkwo told Ikemefuna that they must return him to his home village, but it was a lie because he cannot tell the truth. While Ikemefuna walks with the men of Umuofia, he thought that he is going to see his mother, but after a long walk the men attacked Ikemefuna and killed him, but after this event Okonkwo sinks into a depression and he neither able to sleep nor eat. He visited his friend Obeirika and felt much better than before. Afterward, his daughter Enzima falls ill, however, Okonkwo collected some medicine for her and she recovered. The death of Ogbuefi Ezeudu was announced by musical instruments. Oknowko feels guilty because the last time Ezeudu visited him was to warn him against taking part in Ikemefuna's death. At Ogbuefi Ezuedu's large funeral, guns are fired and drums are beaten. A tragedy just happened that when Okonkwo's gun explodes and kills Ogbuefi Ezeudu's sixteen-year-old son. Okonkwo decides to take his family into exile for seven years in order to atone because killing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess. He moved to his mother's natal village, Mbanta. Oknokwo's kinsmen receive him wamly and helped him build a new place to live in and lent him yam seeds to start a farm. During the second year of Okonkwo's exile, Obeirika brings several bags of cowries that he has made by selling Okonkwo's yams and plans to continue to do so until Oknokwo returns to the village. Also, brings bad news Abame, which is another village that has been destroyed by the White men. Later, six missionaries travel to Mbanta through the guidance called Mr. Kiaga. The missionaries' leader called Mr. Brown spoke to the villagers and told them that they should only worship one god and not many. His aim is to spread Christianity, but the villagers do not understand him very well. Mr. Brown falls ill but Mr. John Smith takes his place who insists to convert as many as he could to Christianity. Enoch's dare to unmask an egwugwu during the annual ceremony to honor the earth deity, which is an act equivalent to killing ancestral spirit; the egwugwu burn Enoch's compound and Reverend Smith's Church to the ground as a response to. The District Commissioner is upset by the burning of the church and requests that the leaders of Umuofia meet with him. And once they gathered, however, the leaders are handcuffed and thrown in jail, where they suffer insults and physical abuse. Okonkwo kills the head messenger with his machete. When the crowd allows the other messengers to escape, Okonkwo realizes that his clan is not willing to go to war when the District Commissioner arrives at Okonkwo's compound; he finds that Okonkwo has hanged himself. The Commissioner, who is writing a book about Africa, believes that the story of Okonkwo's rebellion and death will make for an interesting paragraph or two. He has already chosen The Book's title: "The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger" (pg. 85)
The previous paragraphs briefly demonstrate the facts of the novel. Consequently, I would like to present the major characters of the novel starting with the main character, Okonkwo, who is the son of Unoka who has been a failure and never succeeded, lazy, borrowed many debts and paid back a little or sometimes never. As a result, he was idle, poor, cowardly, gentle, and interested in music and conversation. Okonkwo mainly got positive characteristics, he is productive, wealthy, thrifty, brave, violent, and adamantly opposed to music and anything else that he perceives to be "soft", such as conversation and emotion. He achieves great social and financial success, marries three women and adopts several children. He is so valuable to the community around him. He is an influential clan leader in Umuofia. As the story come to end, Okonkwo behaves rashly, bringing a great deal of trouble and sorrow upon himself and his family. The second character I would like to describe is Nwoye. He is Okonkwo's oldest son. His interests resembles his grandfather, Unoka. When Okonkwo sponsored Ikemefuna he becomes like an older brother to Nwoye and teaches him a gentle form of successful masculinity. After the murder of Ikemefuna, Nwoye finds himself changed because he was used to Ikemefuna and suddenly that character has disappeared from Nwoye's life. Nwoye joins the missionaries and converts into Christianity. Okonkwo criticizes him as "effeminate" and believes that Nwoye is afflicted with the same weaknesses as Unoka.
According to the various themes in the novel, Things Fall Apart we may find a struggle between change and tradition. For instance, the Ibo are doing their best to protect and keep respect to their cultural values and they refuse any other cultural interference. For example, the commissionaires tried to convert many of the Nigerian tribes to Christianity, but the Ibo community has rejected this type of change to their tradition and fought in order to show rejection of the idea to change. Although, those that converted to Christianity enjoy a more elevated status. Many villagers are excited about the new opportunities and techniques that the missionaries bring. The Ibo culture is threatened by the European influence especially in traditional methods of farming, harvesting, building, and cooking. However, these new techniques have an effect on the Ibo culture and language.
In addition, varying interpretations of masculinity is another theme I would like to demonstrate in my research. Okonkwo appears to be violent and ambitious, which is the opposite personality which his father Unoka used to maintain. He associates masculinity with aggression and feels anger the only emotion that he should display. For this reason, he frequently beats his wives even threatening to kill them from time to time. Obierika unlike Okonkwo "was a man who thought about things". Whereas, Obierika refuses to accompany the men in the trip to kill Ikemefuna, Oknonkwo not only volunteers to join the party that will execute his surrogate son, but also violently stabs him with his machete simply because he is afraid of appearing weak.
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Furthermore, language is an important theme in Things Fall Apart on several levels. Achebe shows that the Ibo language is too complex for direct translation into English. Similarly, Ibo culture cannot be understood within the framework of European colonialist values. Achebe also points out that Africa has many different languages. His goal was to critique and emend the portrait of Africa that was painted by so many writers of the colonial period. Achebe managed to capture and convey the rhythms, structures, cadences, and beauty of the Ibo language.
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In addition, the Novel, Things Fall Apart describes the family life and living arrangements in Oknokwo's home. For example, most families are composed of parents and their children. Usually, the parents raise their children and are in charge in taking care of them. In particular, Okonkwo and his wives co-operate and resemble a good unity of a family, although everyone in the family is expected to do an amount of work. According to chapter two:
"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 of failure and of weakness. Also, Okonkwo had his own place to stay called 'obi'. His wives each of one them has her own hut and their children stayed with them" (pg. 7)
Okonkwo's wives are: Ekwefi, Ogijdu and Nowye's mother. Okonkwo owns a farm, works hard to ensure living for his family and that is what he believes is a man job. His wives and children are not as strong as him. His oldest son called Nwoye who is twelve-year-old, but was already causing his father anxiety because of his laziness. At any rate, that was how it looked to his father. He sought to correct him by constant nagging and beating and so Nwoye was developing into a sad-faced youth.
According to Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo had a large compound enclosed by thick walls of red earth. The barn was built against one end of the red walls, and long stacks of yam stood out prosperously in it. At the opposite end of the compound was a shad for the goats, and each wife built a small attachment to her hut for the hens. Near the medicine house of shrine where Okonkwo kept the wooden symbols of his personal god and of his ancestral spirits, Okonkwo usually treats his wives with anger because he believes that a true man should have a tough control on his women and his words should overrule anybody else's words. Achebe shows in chapter three that:
"Okonkwo did not have the start in his life which many young men usually had. He did not inherit a barn from his father. There was no barn to inherit. Nwakibie helps Okonkwo build up the beginnings of his personal wealth, status, and independence. Okonkwo relies on planting and harvesting yams which are a source of food and life, He treated Ikemefuna as he treated everybody else with a heavy hand" (pg.8)
Also, Okonkwo had a great anger on his second youngest wife, Ojiugo because she went to plait her hair at her friend's house and did not return early enough to cook the afternoon meal, but he beats her really hard when she came back. And he had forgotten it was the Week of Peace.
After the Week of Peace, Okonkwo prepared his seed yams with help from his eldest son, Nwoye and Ikemefuna by fetching the yams in long baskets from the barn, but Okonkwo always found fault with their effort. As Okonkwo thought that "yam stood for manliness and wanted his son to be a great farmer as him, and he never liked laziness for men" (pg. 15) As indicated in chapter four, Okonkwo and his family work together to plant yams. Ikemefuna feels as being a member of the family. Okonkwo's wives take an important role in living arrangements. For example, chapter five discusses how his wives contributed in preparing for festival by cleaning the huts and giving it a good look, had nice drawings and patterns. At the same day, Okonkwo got angry when he knew that someone killed the banana tree. His second wife "had merely cut a few leaves off it to wrap some food." (pg.17) As he was preparing to his gun to go out for hunting he heard his wife murmur "something about guns that never shot." So he pointed the gun on her and shot a bullet, but fortunately it did not hit Ekewfi which was near to be killed. Okonkwo did not do it on purpose. Enzima has a good relationship with her mom, Ekwefi, they tell each other stories and help each other in cooking. Enzima was a good daughter, loves to serve and help others especially when she helped Nwoye's mother to light the fire.
Moreover, Enzima usually takes care of her father, Okonkwo, brings him food and obeys his orders. Therefore, Okonkwo wished that Enzima was a boy because she had the right spirit. Also, "Okonkwo was very lucky in his daughters. He never stopped regretting that Enzima was a girl. Of all his children she alone understood his every mood. A bond of sympathy had grown between them as the years had passed." (pg. 71)
Tapping plam trees was one of the jobs in Okonkwo's family in order to absorb palm-wine. Okonkwo always used to tell stories about tribal wars or violent folks to his sons Nwoye and Ikemefuna. Nwoye "knew that it was right to be masculine, but somehow, "he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell" (pg. 23). After the killing of Ikemefuna, Okonkwo got sad and depressed; he drank palm-wine all night. This shows that Okonkwo has two characters: one, masculinity; two, emotional. Enzima brought food to. He did not accept the condition he is being through and ask himself: "when did you become a shivering old woman?" (pg. 28)
To clarify, when Enzima got sick, Ekwefi informed Okonkwo about it and he went in a hurry to collect leaves, grasses, and barks of trees that went into making the medicine for iba. As pointed about in the novel, regarding Okonkwo's happiness once Ekwefi borne Enzima that he had slaughtered a goat for her, as was the custom too.
Furthermore, the last chapters of the novel discuse the relationship between Nwoye and his father Okonkwo becomes weak especially when the missionaries came in the Umuofia. For example, as Achebe wrote that:
"Nwoye resembled his grandfather, Unoka ââ‚¬¦ He Okonkwo, was called a flaming fire. How could he have begotten a woman for a son? At Nwoye's age Okonkwo had already become famous throughout Umuofia for his wrestling and his fearlessness." (pg. 65)
This shows that Okonkwo is shocked that his son Nwoye is completely different than his father and says that he is degenerate and effeminate.
According to Things Fall Apart, the Ibo society demonstrates different roles and functions amongst men and women. For instance, the Ibo culture which consists of nine villages, each village has its own leader and clan, believes, traditions, and roles. The roles of men in the Ibo society: they plant and harvest their farms which rely on yams. Men transfer news to each other and even to different regions in villages; they contribute in wars if any and unite to protect their villages. After all, the Ibo society gives no respect and dignity to their women and believes that women should do what they are ordered to do. Therefore, women are mainly responsible to take care and serve food to their children.
To sum up, Okonkwo is a successful man; he grew strong and able to do a hard work such as planting and fighting in wars. He is a true man and always respected amongst the clans. He has a good control regarding his family. For example, he handles his wives and children in a tough way which he believes what makes him a true man. Though, he does not show emotions, but got depressed for the death of Ikemefuna. He treated his wives in an anger attitude, which was not accepted by his wives. He was happy once Ekwefi gave birth to Enzima and he slaughtered a goat for her. Okonkwo has a good relationship with his daughter Enzima and he always wished that she were a boy because she has the right spirit. When she got sick, he went to collect leaves and certain items as medicine in order to recover her illness. On the hand, Okonkwo always upraise Nwoye's behaviors as a result of his laziness and he always felt that he is effeminate especially when the missionaries came to spread out Christianity. Nwoye has converted to Christianity and never called Okonkwo as his father. Okonkwo was quite shocked regarding to who is being happening and refused to see his son Nwoye anymore.
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In conclusion, the novel, Things Fall Apart written by the author Chinua Achebe demonstrates several points regarding the Ibo society which sets in Nigeria and which the author wanted to give a positive attitude about the Ibo society and culture. Therefore he presented family life and living arrangements, which show that men have different roles and functions that women, as well as the children. A good example about the family life in the Ibo society is Okonkwo's family who grew as a great and brave man better than his father Unoka. Okonkwo was well known amongst the Ibo society. He has three wives, each one stayed in her own hut, he has a farm which was planted with yams. The writer's concern in this novel is to present the traditions, culture, language, and the history of the Ibo society, in particular, the White men who brought missionaries and settled in Nigeria in order to spread Christianity amongst the society. Finally, the novel discuses many facts about the Ibo society which readers might have not known from the past to the present, but served as a good background of knowledge.