Literary Analysis Essay of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’

Literary Analysis Essay of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’

Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ is one of his famous works that describes the tragedy of a man who is unable to adjust to the changes happening in his community. Taking into context the experiences of African history in his book, Achebe highlights the significant impact of European colonialism and examines the inability of people to adapt to these changes and eventually lead to their downfall. The piece is written in a straightforward and objective manner to enable readers to piece together familiarity and get a glimpse of the realities that Africans face during the European colonization.

One theme that stands out when reading the piece of Achebe is the apparent struggle between tradition and change. Specifically, the author provides readers with a picture of Okonkwo, who remains to be hesitant and to an extent violent resistance to changes happening in his tribe. The tribal system remains to be significant to the protagonist in the story because it defines who he is as a person. Also, succumbing to change would mean Okonkwo accepting that he would lose his social position as well as adapt to the culture promoted by outsiders (Mongredien 1). Now, the traditional customs and practices he continues to abide to are now irrelevant and further alienated him from the rest of the community. Arguably, this inability to cope with change became an instrument for Okonkwo to not only be in conflict with authorities but also contribute to the downfall of his life. It is therefore Okonkwo who ultimately caused his downfall due to his ego and continued insistence to pursue his own way of life.

Another important theme highlighted by Achebe in the story corresponds to the nature of masculinity and how it undermines the role of women. Since the author comes from Africa, the setting presents the traditional tribal culture where social roles are attributed according to gender. In particular, men like Okonkwo demonstrate control of the family and remains to be important actors in decision making. That is why his inclination to brutality, violence and aggression remains to be his way of showcasing his manliness (Achebe Ch.7). Based on this mindset, Okonkwo’s control of the household also undermines the role of women in the story. They remain to be subjugated and treated as part of property by men. For instance, Okonkwo in the story continues to show little preference to his maternal background because of the fear of being associated with the weak (Stron-Leek 32). Equally, the same can also be seen with how Okonkwo’s treatment to his family. These demeanors advocated by Okonkwo arguably also led to his isolation to the community that is slowly embracing a more ‘humane’ way of negotiating rather than bloodshed.

Lastly, there are the issues of colonialism and cultural differences in the story. The changes that Okonkwo continued to resist came from the colonizers who sought to spread Christianity to Umuofia. From a critical standpoint, it demonstrates the approach taken by European colonialists in advancing their values, ideals and beliefs to the tribe. Arguably, it is Okonkwo, who is among the few to struggle against these ideals and still prescribing to traditional customs and traditions. Also evident is the apparent cultural differences between the two groups in the story. There are numerous instances where the tribe of Okonkwo would succumb to the principles of European colonialists but still exhibit traditional customs and values. For the part of the protagonist, the European settlers cannot fully understand their ideals because it remains to be embellished by language (Igbo) and customs that are passed on through generations. These striking differences arguably remain to be instrumental in promoting conflict in the story. 

Overall, Chinua Achebe’s story in ‘Things Fall Apart’ highlights important realities faced by Africans during the European colonialism. During the time when radical changes in traditional beliefs and customs are developed, it centers on the tragedy of one man who is unable to adjust to these changes. Clinging to his tribal past that defines who he is and his social position, Okonkwo suffers the demise of his decisions and like many who failed to accept changes, fade into the past.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. UK: Penguin, 2013. Print.

Mongredien, Phil. ‘Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe’ the Guardian, 31 Jan. 2010.Web.  Accessed 9 August 2014.

Strong-Leek, Linda. ‘Reading as a Woman: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Feminist Criticism’ African Studies Quarterly, 5.2 (2001): 29-35.