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1 Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe A Book Review By Helen R. Hallare Submitted to Dr.

Teodoro Maranan Professor, CEU Graduate School The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe takes us through a journey in the life of the main character Okonkwo, a fierce warrior from the Nigerian village of Umuofia. The novel opens with the story of the rise and the reason for the determination of Okonkwo to become successful and be one of the villages wealthy and respected members. Okonkwo was a self-made man. And unlike many of his tribesmen, he did not inherit any wealth from his father. His wealth and fortune was due to his hardwork and determination, fueled by his resentment of his father. To Okonkwo, his father was weak and was a failure. His father, Unoka, was known to be a loafer and a poor man whose family had barely enough to eat. Despite of this Unoka was very good with his flute. Ukonkwo grew up fearing failure and detesting weakness. He fashioned himself to be a fearless warrior showing little if no emotion. His fierce determination to succeed was ruled by one passionto hate everything that his father Unoka loved. One of those was gentleness and another was idleness. And in a culture where wealth is measured by the size of ones household, Okonkwo did succeed. Achebe walked us thru the rich culture of the Igbo people. He painted a picture of how these people, primitive in the eyes of many, lived a life of simplicity ruled by a set customs, beliefs and traditions. The author wittingly wrote how the natives believed in their chi and how to them it makes sense not to offend their gods. The Igbo people may always be pictured as savages and warlike but Achebe clearly showed us early in his novel that they would not go to war without first trying a peaceful settlement. Achebe also introduced many other colorful characters in his novel. He purposely used each character to show the contradictions not only in the Igbo way of life but also, somehow, in our own. Unoka, Okonkwos father, in my point of view, lived before his time. He possessed the wisdom and gentleness but had the misfortune of owning such traits in a time and place where manliness was central. Obierika, Okonkwos bestfriend, is not a typical Igbo tribesman. He contrasts Okonkwo in many ways. He was gentle and often pictured as a wise and thoughtful man. He is one who would weight things first before springing into action. Achebe succeeded in

2 depicting the true meaning of friendship in the relationship of between Obierika and Okonkwo. Despite their differences, Obierika and Okonkwo remained good friends. Achebe also fashioned Obierika as one who would question the worthiness of their tribes traditions. With his questioning comes his passive role in their observance. Rather than go against it, he would choose to ignore the traditions and justify his action thru his own sensible philosophy. Achebe was able to convey, thru Obierikas attitude, how he sees the culture and tradition of the Igbo people. It may be rich and symbolic, but it also has some pitfalls. The novel is riddled with symbolism. Relationships and characters depict symbols Achebe would like to come across. The death of Ogbuefi Ndulue, one of the elders, followed by the immediate and strange death of his first wife symbolizes the love and bond between spouses. The kind of kinship Okonkwo failed to understand. It was said in the novel that Ogbuefi Ndulue cannot do anything without telling his first wife. The same timing of their death seems to say that even in death they want to be together. The patriarchal Igbo society is mirrored in the love of Okonkwo to his fathers ancestral land. Okonkwo, despite his resentment of his father, still saw and recognize the superiority of men over women. This was evident in his unhappiness when he was He was commanded to leave Umuofia after accidentally killing one of his clansmen. leaving behind a place where he was recognized and respected. With the coming of the Western Missionaries, Achebe used the character of Mr. Brown, the first white Christian missionary, to depict an outsider tolerant and respectful of the native culture and traditions. This is in stark contrast with the character of Reverend James Smith, Mr. Browns successor, who was strict and openly condemning. When put to light, Mr. Brown can be likened to Obierika, gentle and sensible, and Reverend Brown to Okonkwo, intolerant and self-righteous. The character of the district commissioner depicts the shallow understanding of westerners of the Igbo culture. Nyowe, Okonkwos son, is symbolic of Umuofias journey to change. His conversion to Christianity symbolizes the new generations questioning of their religious beliefs. His new found faith was able to enlighten him of the questions he longed to be answered. The mad logic of the Holy Trinity was not the reason why he embraced Christianity. It was the poetry of this new religion that was able to soothe his parched soul that captivated him. Surrendering to it gave him peace. Unknowingly Achebe was able to point out the kind of faith we should all have a faith that is not there to explain everything to us but instead give us the open-mindedness and the tranquility of acceptance. And by picturing

unhappy because he would be leaving the land that he loves and more so because he will be

3 Christianity as the kind of religion that would openly accept people regardless of their status in life, Achebe in his own words modeled Christianity in a pleasing light. At the end, Okonkwos high-handedness and pride proved to be his downfall. His self-righteous attitude and intolerance of meekness prodded him to take matters in his own hand by blindly deciding to slay the head messenger during the tribes meeting. Okonkwo ignored the tradition of his tribe of resolving disagreement peacefully . His clans reaction to his savage deed was a clear indication that his tribe has evolved. The tribe was not what it used to be. Things have fallen apart for both Okonkwo and his tribe. Okonkwo despite his success ended like his father, broken and alone. His beloved tribe did not survive the coming of the foreigners and is now slowly losing its identity amidst the invasion of the white men. Things have surely fallen apart. I have learned that determination and sheer resolve can truly lead anyone to success. But success does not necessarily guarantee happiness . Okonkwos resolve to be fierce and the opposite of his father gave him wealth but not the happiness he hope for. His father, wise and gentle as he was never gained the respect of his tribe. It only shows that determination without wisdom of age and acceptance cannot bring happiness to any man. Open-mindedness is necessary to live peacefully with mankind. Everyone has a story to tell and it is but wise to hear them out. Respect of others belief should always be observed. If I were in the position of Okonkwo, I would have been more tolerant of the people around me. I do admire his determination to succeed but with his success comes with a great price. His fear of failure and weakness is understandable because he grew up as a disadvantaged youth. This book can be an inspiration to the young but they must take heed, not to fall into the ill ways of Okonkwo.

A wise man changes his mind, a fool never. - Spanish Proverb