“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe


Chinua Achebe, through his novels clearly depicted the early African society, its culture and traditions, and colonialism which drastically changed the lives of African people. Himself a part of one of the tribal communities in Nigeria, called the Igbo (earlier called Ibo) community, Achebe includes satire in his novels about the consequences of colonialism. ‘Things Fall Apart’ is his novel which was published in 1958. His writings are influenced from his personal experiences as an African. He witnessed the Nigerian Civil War, when he was a part of the Biafran Government Service. His disapproval of the changes that happened in Nigeria and to its people is a result of his life experiences. He was also indignant about the kind of literature he studied in school. He got introduced to African literature written from the Westerners’ perspectives. These writers saw Africans only from an angle of comedy and so he wrote his novels as to reply to these works. Also, he wanted his people to realize how rich their past culture and traditions were, because colonialism brought along with it, a western, modern culture. The novel narrates the story of Igbo community and its traditions before colonialism and the changes that came about as a result of it.

We will write a custom “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe specifically for you
for only $14.00 $11,90/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

Main body

Achebe effectively explains the various religious beliefs and rituals which were followed by the Igbo community until the colonists took over the rule. His descriptions are so vivid that even a foreigner can visualize their society and how it functioned. From the history of Igbo community and from the novel, ‘Things Fall Apart,’ it is evident that the people of that time either gave feminine labels to highly regarded concepts and positions or believed them to be females. Women were allowed to form associations and social meetings. They held equal importance in farming and weaving which require a lot of physical exertion. They had the rights to trade just like men and do business. Women had the same powers even in the village to where they were married. However, in spite of such high regard, the community still remained patriarchal. Achebe does not make clear the reason for this, but this is visible from the novel.

Firstly, the community always decided on women as their priestess. This shows the importance and high status women were given in the Igbo society. Chika was the priestess before Okonkwo grew up. After he becomes big, Chielo becomes the priestess of the Oracle. She is the priestess of Agbala. Okonkwo is seen as afraid of very people and the Oracle is among them. Okonkwo, who is the hero of the story pleads with Achielo, when she comes at night for Okonkwo’s daughter. He requests her to come in the morning. Okonkwo is a brave man who does not accept defeat or failure anywhere or to anyone. His fear for the Oracle is evident from this incident. “Okonkwo pleaded with her to come back in the morning because Ezinma was now asleep. But Chielo ignored what he was trying to say and went on shouting that Agbala wanted to see his daughter… The priestess screamed. ‘Beware, Okonkwo!’ she warned.” (Achebe).

A second example is that of the Earth goddess, who was Ani. She has a lot of importance in the daily lives of the people in the Igbo community, because farming was one of their occupations. The dead people were given back to the earth. The people believed that she had the powers to judge morality and conduct and punish the ones who had done bad deeds or gone the wrong way. There are frequent references to Ani in the novel. Achebe also emphasizes the special mother/child relationship in the community. The relationship between Ekwefi and Azinma proves mothers also took the role of friends with their children. She plays with her and pampers her and stays always near her when she is not well. Another example that can be quoted is that Okonkwo’s when he goes to his mother’s village after he is banished from his village. He finds more comfortable there than anywhere else. A research about the contemporary Nigerian proves that the mother/child is still stronger than father/child bond.

However, he ordinary women do not have a high status in their families. The community officially allows men to beat women. They are considered merely as tools for the giving birth to children. A man had the right to marry many women, and only the first wife was given high consideration in the society. Men who did not receive even at a older age was called ‘Agbala’ or woman. This shows that women were thought of as weak compared to men. Besides, the Igbo community was a patriarchal one. The children were considered as part of their fathers’ families and they inherited their father’s cultures and traditions. Why a community which gave so much social importance to women forgot to give or conveniently avoided giving equal status to them in families is an obvious doubt which arises in the minds of outsiders or readers of the novel.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Dialogue from the novel ‘Things Fall Apart’. 1958.

Check the price of your paper