Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is an interesting novel about the uprising of a man in the Igbo clan of Umuofia called Okonkwo. Throughout the novel you come to understand that Okonkwo lived his life with the fear of becoming like his father Unoka, therefore he strove to become one of the elite men in his clan. Unoka was viewed as a failure because he was a terrible farmer who was lazy, couldn’t provide for his wives and children, and was heavily in debt. The fear drove Okonkwo to become the best warrior of the clan where he ranked up two levels out of four at an early age.
Okonkwo became a great and wealthy farmer with many wives and children, but things didn’t remain so perfect in the novel. Numerous changes come towards Okonkwos lifestyle and it begins when he brings in a young lad by the name of Ikemefuna. This character changes the dynamic of the house as he helped groom Okonkwo son Nwoye into a better young man. But things of course head to a downfall when Ikemefuna had to be killed because the tribe ordered it. It seems like the narrator wants to show change as the reoccurring theme throughout the novel.
It’s proven when Okonkwo was involved in an accidental shooting and is forced to exile the village for seven years. When Okonkwo does his time away he returns to Umuofia but things were very different from when he left as white missionaries have come to change their religion, customs, and apply a government. Throughout the novel you get a sense that the narrator views religion and customs as a very important aspect as those things come to be question when missionaries arrive to show the people a different way of life.
But of course religion and customs are very important in the novel because these things are what affect the decision making and development of the Igbo people. Their everyday activities revolve around religion and what the Gods think is the next proper step. As you read parts when new characters come to play you can see that the narrator gives you a background of the individual and is categorize into a specific stature depending on the judgment of the Igbo people. In the novel the narrator sets a tone that being a strong man is a good thing and that weakness should not be shown on a man.
A man who shows weakness is categorize as a woman, which was one of the greatest insults a man can bear. The narrator goes into depth of the kind of dominant man Okonkwo was and how he was the ideal figure of a real man. “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, the fear of failure and of weakness. ” (p. 19).
Seems like the narrator tries to specify that the key to a man’s success is determined by how strong and manly he may be. In another part of the novel you can see the narrator make symbolic meaning of particular crops on how manly a man is. “His mother and sister worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops, like coco-yams, beans and cassava. Yam, the king of crops was a man’s crop”. (p. 23) “Yam stood for manliness, and he who could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed.
Okonkwo wanted his son to be a great man. He would stamp out the disquieting signs of laziness which he thought he already saw in him” (p. 33). With the following quotes you can see where and how the narrator explains that a man is judged by hard work and how manly he may be. Weakness is not tolerated, and you can see that the character of Okonkwo already dealing with the displeasures of a weak man in his young son. Throughout the novel, the narrator continuously brings up cases where religion to the Igbo people was the key in their lives.
He also emphasizes how when missionaries came to Umuofia that they were trying to change their religion to Christianity which was completely different from the Igbo religion. But the way that an argument between a missionary called Mr. Brown and a clansman called Akunna, it seems as if the point contradicts itself when the clansman tries to show Mr. Brown that both religion are quite the same thing. In including such argument to the novel is what makes it intriguing. “