Presentation of death in the novel, ‘things fall apart,’ is often the ultimate punishment for wrong doers. For instance, Okonkwo hangs himself after doing many wrong things while in power. He kills Ikefemuna as a sacrifice yet the child expected Okonkwo to protect him from the killers who were to use him as sacrifice. He had to go into exile after the incident and when he came back he was forgotten, Christianity had taken over his village and he committed suicide to avoid the shame. Death in the novel is also a sign of an end to a regime. When Okonkwo accidentally kills the son of Ezedu, he is sent into exile and at that point, the culture and unity of his village falls apart at the hand of the colonialists.
There are several major conflicts in the novel. There is the conflict that comes about when the white people invade the village and introduce Christianity. Christianity was a front for the white men to manipulate the villagers and take over their land where the villagers will end up being made slaves. There is also a conflict between Okonkwo and Christianity. He refuses to be brain washed like his fellow villagers. He represents the deeply rooted culture of the village of Umuofia that is being threatened by the white man’s western culture. There is also the conflict presented by Okonkwo being powerful and at the same time not being above the law as one would expect for a man o his status. His going into exile precedes the downfall of the village, the culture and Okonkwo’s own legacy.
Culture in this story is strong and unites the people of the village. The culture dictates that the men are the protectors and providers of their families as it is clearly shown in the life of Okonkwo’s father. The culture also dictated that the villages have leaders among themselves, they formed little independent kingdoms. The culture’s expectations of a man is what led to the down fall of Okonkwo. He tried so hard to be the man the people respect by being rich and having many wives and caring for them all but he ended up overworking them to maintain his social status. Culture in this story shows the society being patriarchal and the women have no voice. They are merely subjects to the men.
The people of Umuofia respect nature. They view themselves as part of nature. They also owe their existence to nature because the food they eat comes from the soil. The people of the village utilize the gifts of nature exhaustively by ensuring that they grow palm trees for wine and make herbs from the trees when the land has been invaded by locusts. The people of Umuofia revere nature as is evident during the harvest seasons when they prepare extravagant celebrations and ruing the New Year’s festivities. There is also the issue where they get in touch with the gods of nature like the god of rain who asked for the sacrifice of a child and the god of the sea.
Women in this story are depicted as being the house keepers. They do not have a voice or choice in the society which makes Enzima together with her mother Ekwefi stand out. They openly stand up to Okonkwo and Oknkwo loves them for being brave. They defy the roles of being mere house keepers and being voiceless subject to Okonkwo and other men as the women in this culture are brought up to believe. The women work for the men and help them get rich by tilling the fields to ensure the men can have good yields. Women basically nurture the community as directed by the men. They have no place in politics and they cannot oppose or give an opinion about anything the men have decided. The culture of the Umuofia village put children and women on the same level.
Supernatural powers in the village of Umuofia was valued. For instance, the wife of the sea god could not be married to a human. This was ascertained by the fact that all the men that married her eventually died. The supernatural powers were tasked with taking care of the village and her people. It is for this reason that they asked for sacrifice when the villagers needed anything from them like rain. It is for this reason that Okonkwo killed Ikefemuna to offer to the gods so that they would send rain to the village. The supernatural powers ensured that the people in the village maintained law and order as well as morals and fairness.
Religious allusion in the novel are tied to the villagers shifting their beliefs from the traditional reverence to the super naturals to Christianity. The villagers stop believing in their supernatural gods in favour of Christianity when Okonkwo is sent into exile. They find that they do not have a leader to protect them from the invasion of the white man without Okonkwo. The white man brought Christianity and managed to convert many people to Christianity and therefore, the villagers could no longer stay united for the fear of the supernatural getting angry and punishing them. The religion of the white man dismissed the superiority of the supernatural power and gods making the villagers also feel that they needed God more than their traditional gods.
Journeys in things fall apart signify the beginning of new life and change of routine. This is evident in the first journey to be mentioned where Ikefemuna’s father killed a woman from Umuofia village and Okonkwo had to adapt Ikefemuna. This was a new beginning for Ikefemuna. He got a new family to live with and a new father figure in Okonkwo. The second significant journey is the one where Okonkwo went to exile. This journey marked the death of culture in Umuofia despite the fact that Okonkwo was not even a chief but a strong warrior and protector of the village. His journey back marked the end of his legacy because he could not redeem the village from the grip of the white people.
Men in the society were considered warriors and providers. They were also the rulers of the village. Their role was to ensure that the women and children were well protected because they considered them weak and defenceless. This is why Okonkwo was ruthless and hard on everybody around him. He was trying to live up to the role of a man as dictated by the culture. Men were not expected to show emotions in the open. The culture demanded that the men be strong and remain unmoved by both good and bad news. This is why the men were all trained to be warriors, protectors and providers for their families.
Colonization in things fall apart has been used to signify the end to the unity of the Umuofia village. Their intrusion breaks down the society by first discouraging their belief in the Gods and introducing them to Christianity. Colonization to this community also makes the warriors stop fighting outsiders to protect their territory. This is evident when the colonialists send a message to the village demanding that the meeting Okonkwo is holding be stopped. When he kills one messenger, his fellow warriors let the others flee instead of fighting them as Okonkwo does with one. Colonization at this point can be said to disintegrate the Umuofia village.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. William Heinemann, 1958. Document.
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