Of the many intriguing questions Achebe presents in his book, Things Fall Apart, perhaps the final portions, when white men are colonizing the local people, reminds readers the most of the title. It is the downfall of freedom in the societies of black tribal people, but at the same time bringing new chances for societal advancements. Achebe presents this contradiction by showing readers’ Okonkwo’s sadness towards the colonization of his village. He also presents the shocking benefits that the white men are willing to give to the tribal people. Finally, Okonkwo’s death towards the ends completely shut downs the potential for everything to return to once it was before.
Okonkwo’s reaction of his own village begins the quite, sad realization of the downfall against white men, creating sympathy for him from the readers. They might somehow relate to him too as culture itself is a subjective topic: it develops from the ground up. This means that culture is the product of the culmination from the land people live in, before culture there are natural orders that one should follow. Therefore, no one has the right to interrupt the natural flow of things. Okonkwo is a great example of what an Umuofian man is: he understands the importance of his own practices, the rules and the value of masculinity through the dispute against his very own father. Although today’s standard will seriously questions Okonkwo’s masculinity, it is something that defines him. In this way, Achebe more or less frames him as the representative of the Umuofian culture as a whole. For Okonkwo to be so sad shows the true descent of his culture.
Despite the cruel reality, the situation is surprisingly somewhat brighter than that, which starts the question of whether or not if colonization is so terrifying. In the beginning of Chapter 21, Achebe describes the wealth the white men provides for Umuofia: trading of palm-oil and kernel brings great fortune for them. Not only that, Mr. Brown even promises education for the villagers so that the villagers can maintain control of their land. Although these are clear advantages for the villagers, it is clear how the oppressors are manipulating them. They buy natural resources with a high price so that villagers can comfortably rely on their economy. Additionally, the colonizers trap them into the education trap because clearly, the irony is that they are the one controlling them. So now, Umuofians can comfortably sell away their freedom, relying on the benefits that they get from the colonizers. One might argue that such sacrifice is, at best, ignorant or at worst, foolish, but there is a catch. If Umuofians are to succeed in pushing away the white men, they will go back to their life before, which is restrictive, both economically and in terms of education. Their cultural practices will continue to be disregarded from the outside as well as potentially inside their community. Therefore, this matter calls into the question of freedom: what is freedom? And is there any “true” freedom that one can grasp of?
Finally, the death of Okonkwo leaves a bitter conclusion in the face to preserve originality of a culture. Just when Okonkwo kills himself, his own tribe leaves him behind as a disgrace, labelling his action as a sin against the earth. The ending turns off any hope for things to go back the way before. It marks the descent of a hero, from achieving the greatest of heights for his people, only to fall down rapidly to the level of a dog, as Obierika bitterly says. In this way, readers can see how the people of Umuofia still somewhat preserve their own beliefs, but not in a way that is meaningful. It is not meaningful that they do not set exceptions for such heroic action of Okonkwo but simply lies to themselves that they are doing the right course of actions. That to rely on the white men to do their favor of bringing Okwonko down is right. In a way, the people of Umuofia is not only the slaves for the white men, but also the ones who surrenders in the face of their very own culture.
Things Fall Apart is a great piece of literature for raising questions about masculinity, the role of women and the importance of culture in the face of colonization. Okonkwo at first appears as a typical man who is strong, one-dimensioned masculine, over time, reveals to readers the other sides of him that he can be fearful, anxious in the face of great disasters. The book also presents many aspects of tribal culture that feels truly original and real, in the support of Achebe’s raw language. Something that is worth questioning from the examination of colonization is that what if it never happened? What if history goes on with cultures never crossing each other and only preserves everything about it? How would it feel then to have everywhere in the world be truly distinct from one another? It would seem that the world could be what everyone never imagined before.