“Living fire begets cold, impotent ash. He [Okonkwo] sighed again, deeply,” writes Chinua Achebe in his novel Things Fall Apart . Okonkwo, one of the most powerful tribesmen of the Umoufia, struggles to persevere through personal and tribal tragedy as his once happy and peaceful clan tumbles into disrepair under the pressure of Western forces. Will he, with the rest of Umoufia, succumb to the European aggression?
Things Fall Apart, Achebe’s first novel, was published in 1958, when European colonialism was beginning to end on the African continent. With accomplished, dignified prose, Achebe tells the story of a people who lived a simple and natural life in a way that is (for the most part) fair and practical until the fateful day when the Europeans, armed with racism, Western ideals, violence, and Christianity, arrive.
Surprisingly, Christianity was the weapon that eventually brought down everything Okonkwo dearly loved. His fervor for tradition and manliness suffers as his tribe undergoes rapid changes, and the closely knit community that once adhered to Mother Nature and tradition falls apart.
As the once seemingly unbreakable Okonkwo go through hardship after hardship, the readers brace themselves for a breakdown that seems to be just on the horizon. The readers will find themselves growing wary of the tragic life of Okonkwo and the impossible weight of responsibility to maintain his clan that weighs down his once powerful shoulders.
But until they hungrily reach the final pages of the book, Achebe leaves his readers painfully clueless whether or not Okonkwo will survive until the very end of the book. The beauty of this book is in the agonizing changes Okonkwo and his village go through as time grovelingly trudges on.
But until they hungrily reach the final pages of the book, Achebe leaves his readers painfully clueless whether or not Okonkwo will survive the endless ordeals. The beauty of this book is in the agonizing changes Okonkwo and his village go through as time grovelingly trudges on.
A staple of modern African literature, Things Fall Apart is a must-read for anyone wishing to learn about the rich culture of the Igbo people. Achebe eloquently tells the tragedy of Okonkwo’s fall from grace while depicting the intricate structure of the Igbo society at the time it had to wrestle with the new Western influences.