I enjoyed reading and analyzing the novel: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. I also found it interesting how the story is separated into three different parts, possibly symbolizing three stages of European colonization in Africa. Those from Umuofia regarded speaking to be a skill that they praised. Ironically their downfall is at the hands of the white man who cannot speak their language. I felt that the use of proverbs diminished after the second part of the novel.
Achebe creates the dichotomy between Okonkwo and his father from the very start of the novel, allowing for questions to be raised as to the male roles in a patriarchal society. Umuofia uses gender roles and traditions within families and in the greater society to keep the people following a certain kind of leader. The culture in Umuofia works as a governmental system as well as a faith. The traditions of Umuofia raise questions as to how culture may influence leadership in society. In today’s time government, culture, and religion are still often mixed together, leading to dangers of misrepresentation, and the creation of out-groups stemming from the popularity of a dominant religion.
I also found it interesting how tradition and ways of thinking, differed between those who were part of the Igbo culture and those who were part of Christianity. Igbo is shown on many accounts that its theologies provide freedom for the person to choose what they believe in; it’s not up to the community or the person to convert him. With the colonization of the Europeans, Achebe demonstrates another face of religion, in which there is only one right way to believe, and those who disagree are ostracized. Achebe shows a gradual shift in the theologies of the people of Umuofia throughout the three parts of the novel. At the beginning of the story, the death of a Umuofian woman sparks retribution, and Ikemefuna must pay the price with his life, despite him having no correlation with the matter. This may show the theologies of the people and making wrongs right. This changes at the end of the story when the leaders of Umuofia are taken by the Christians. They are beaten, whipped, starved, deprived of a restroom, and disgraced by shaving their heads. When they are finally returned to Umuofia, they do not take action to find retribution for the Christians, despite the people’s energy and sorrow at what had been done. The contrasting of these two instances reveals the change the people of Umuofia experienced throughout European colonization.
From the death of Okonkwo, colonization is shown through a darker lens. Not only does colonization kill those who fight against it, but it leads Okonkwo into such deep despair that he would take his own life, despite the societal construct that it is unacceptable and a sign of weakness. Okonkwo is portrayed as the ultimate form of despair, from being well respected to taking his own life. Raising the question of how much people deserve.
I greatly enjoyed reading the novel, however, it was slow at times. Achebe raised important questions pertaining to colonization, culture, religion, and masculinity.