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The traditions and values in a society or civilization are essential for its fate and future

well-being. Many times, a society’s health is being reflected upon individuals and group attitudes

toward the traditions and values. The author, Chinua Achebe explains this idea through the novel

Things Fall Apart in which the Umuofian values of religion, personal achievements, and male

superiority are questioned by many individuals. These questions spark conflict among the tribe

and its people. As a result, the inflexible Umuofian traditions and values cause the culture’s to

fall apart.

The religion in the Umuofian tribe has a dominant control over the social and political

life of its people which caused the tribe to break apart. The head of the religious hierarchy in the

tribe consists of the oracle which is perceived as the most “supreme” (Clayton 1). Being the most

supreme ruler, the Oracle has the absolute power in making arbitrary decisions in both social and

political issues. The Oracle is fixed in its decisions and not tolerant of any changes. Therefore,

even the most far-fetched decisions are expected to be carried out in full obedience. In the scene

where Ikemefuma is told to be killed, the messenger, Ogbuefi Ezedu confronts Okonkwo and

says “The Oracle of the Hills and the Caves has pronounced it. They will take him outside

Umuofia as is the custom, and kill him there” (Achebe 57). This issue is resolved by only one

representative, the Oracle. There is no consensus from which bodies of members could discuss

over these issues. As a result, the decisions which are made are irrational and illogical as shown

by the killing of Ikemefuma. Most importantly, without a body of legislatives, there is a

separation between low class of tribal members and the high class of religious members, which

weakens the tribe as a whole. A similar situation is shown by where “old people and twins are

left in the Evil Forest to die” (Sarr 2). Both the killing of Ikemefuma and twins left to die in Evil

Forest are highly related. All of these decisions are based on superstition in which individuals
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question their moral standards. Nwoye, son of Okonkwo describes seeing twins left in the forest

as the same “feeling” when Ikemefuma is killed (Achebe 62). This feeling that Nwoye had

eventually made him realized the cruelty and immorality of the tribe’s beliefs. Consequently,

when the missionaries arrive, Nwoye accepts the Christians’ alternate view of love and

acceptance. He responds to their message by turning away from his tribe, which influence many

others to do so with the same values. Moreover, Obierka’s reasons for opposition to religious

authority are even more subtle. While Okonkwo ask for his presence in Ikemefuma death,

Obierika simply replies “Because I [do] not want to” (Achebe 66). This defiant assertion

demonstrates Obierika direct disagreement on the full authority of the religion. It may be

assumed that Obierika wants a change in this society where the full control of religion is

minimized and transferred to the hands of the people. Not only would religion be a factor in the

culture’s destruction but also other traditions and values which would open up the Pandora’s Box

in the society.

Besides religion, the emphasis on individual values and achievement cause major

downturn in the Umuofia tribe. The Umuofia tribe greatly focuses on the value of masculinity by

demonstrating the significance of the wrestling match. In the beginning of the book, Okonkwo

has a lot of fame by “throwing Amalinze the Cat” (Achebe 3). Since this society stress the value

on physical strength, individuals have to prove themselves in order to receive a high position in

the tribe. Thus, individuals will eventually become obsessed with strength and fearful of

weakness. Okonkwo is one prime individual who is greatly impacted by this notion. During the

slaughter of Ikemefuma, the author states that Okonkwo “[draws] his machete and [cuts] him

down. He [is] afraid of being thought as weak” (Achebe 61). The action that Okonkwo made is

rather irrational and rashful based on his fear of weakness. However, the cause of Okonkwo’s
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attitude is influenced by the tribe’s culture of achievement and masculinity. As individuals such

as Okonkwo try to become strong, they become unnoticed that their downfall is right at their

doors. As a result, the tribe’s unity is broken as a whole due to individual downfalls in the

society. Moreover, the positions in tribe are important in determining economic success such that

“a man’s prestige is in direct proportion to the size of barns and compounds, number of titles”

(Sarr 2). A detriment problem is associated with this tradition as individuals who have physical

strength tend to have higher recognitions in the tribe compare to those who do not have the

masculinity. As a result, those individuals with higher status will own more economic wealth

than the lower class. This unequal distribution of wealth in the society causes the immense

division of the Ibo society and eventually leading to its downfall. The fear of failures in

individuals and the separation of social classes lead to the disunity of the tribe however the

discrimination on women delivered a final blow to the Umuofia village.

The lacks of feminine importance in the Umuofia tribe bring the tribe to its end. Women

are supposed to be partners and helpers of men and have to be treated with respect. However, the

Ibo tribe reverses this idea of women and brings male to superiority. Uchendu describes the

status of men as “the head of the family and his wives do his bidding” (Achebe 133). The Ibo

culture is base on male prosperity where only the men could achieve high social status. In

contrast to men, women are regarded as unnecessary objects and had to obey the commands of

men. Hence, women could not voice out their opinions and ideas in the society. These opinions

and ideas could help advance the society in politics, technology, and education. Without the

equal rights of women and men, the Ibo tribe would not develop but rather contract and wither

away. In the content of agriculture and farming, men own “the yams, the king of crops” (Osei-

Nyame 8). Even through agriculture, the men gets dominate rights over the women in deciding
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the crops to own because the male society believes that women are weak and failures.

Consequently, women are deprived of their natural abilities and a division among males and

females occurs in the tribe. In addition to men’s superiority, men could also abuse their power by

beating their wives. The author states that “Okonkwo [walks] back to his obi . . . and when she

[returns] he [beats] her very heavily” (Achebe 29). Since wife-beating is common in the Ibo

tribe, women have a large opposition against the superiority of men. The form of opposition

comes through passive questions and doubts which provide a further insecurity in the tribe.

Fables and folktales told by women suggest the fact that female questions and ideas are

implemented into the male culture of the Ibo tribe. The unequal rights of women and the

disrespect for female virtues lead to the devastating fate of the Ibo tribe.

The authoritarian attitude towards the questioning of traditions and values in the Umuofia

tribe result in the downfall of the tribe. In fact, the dominant control of religion over individuals’

life, the emphasis on the value of achievement, and the lack of feminine importance contribute to

peoples’ distrust on higher authority. When people doubt and seek change in a society, the

welfare of a nation falls apart just like the Umuofian village in Things Fall Apart.