Book Review – Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart in a Nigerian villager’s bid when he’s in loggerheads with European colonizers at the backdrop of 1890’s Africa. Though a historical tale, Things Fall Apart has still a deep bearing in the modern world, it covers for a lot many racial struggles still going on today. Moreover, it has been used as piece in many a literature courses from many Universities. It has also been through many adaptations, revisits, illustrations relating to the infectious dynamism of the book for its dazzling afterglow.

In 1890’s Africa, when Nigeria was under the colony of the Europe, the story gushes, which revolves around Okonkwo, his wives and sons, his clan Umuofia, Uchendu, and Mr. Brown representing the British colonizers.

The concept of Hero as drawn from the Greek epics is who protects his society, however small; he leads his society into redemption and keeps responsibilities towards the society before his life. He acknowledges the entire society as his household thus respected, loved, toed and even worshipped by people in the society, who eventually dies a hero in the story. Okonkwo’s character goes down well with all the pre-requisites of a hero; he has his own clan Umuofia to look after and is also responsible of creating antidotes for any blow from the European colonizers. Success kisses his feet and he boasts of three wives and many children, who went on to gain social eminence for his bravery. Having remarkable expertise in warlike skills, and also devoid of emotions, if rightly said, he is obsessed with showing no sign of such. This leads him into different problems in the thick of the story.

Soon after the beginning of the story, the reader starts to realize that when Okonkwo’s Umuofia clan stands apart from the part and parcel of the western world, it still beams a structure of its own. They have clear systems concerning marriage, justice and religion. It is like a parallel world to that of the European ideal world. When Okonkwo accidentally kills a boy with a misfire from his gun, he and his family are packed off to an exile for seven years.

Umuofia’s biggest loophole was it never had a leader of the tribes despite the clear system with the governing body with a council of elders, thus it was easy for any external force to captivate them. So did the British colonizers, they sent some missionaries to set the founder stone of the colony and eventually took the tribes on board to let the men determined to establish a European-led government in. Hell broke loose when the cultures refused to blend owing to each of their egos, thereby problems started to emerge.

Okonkwo falls’ victim to British colonizers who arrested him but he showed no weakness to his downfall. He hangs himself before the authorities can take him away as a prisoner.

Among all of the stresses between the Nigerians and the British, Mr. Brown was the only bona fide to show some tolerance and understanding. He, who was a missionary, encourages his converts not to act fiercely with the fellow villagers, who didn’t censure any other African custom apart from religion. His tolerance towards the African culture unlike other British colonizers earned him another level of respect from the villagers.

Chinua Achebe’s mighty pen denounces the thrusting of European culture upon the African natives, advocates a society free from the shackles of slavery, misdemeanour and tearing down the self respect of the oppressed in the name of colony. While Okonkwo’s fate mirrors the ordeal of the colonised and threatened tribe, the novel establishes itself as a weighty witness to sufferings of the African colony. It also brings some other social issues like Global Poverty and Millennium development goals (the fallout of suppression), Human Trafficking (the case of Ikemefuna who was given to Okonkwo followed by trying to settle a dispute with neighbouring village who the leaders decide to kill later), Child Abuse and Violence again women (Okonkwo beats his wife black and blue to get them to do what he pleases), Preventable Disease ( the crisis of infant mortality among the Africans, reference : Okonkwo’s and Uchendu loses many of their children).


About the author: Shreyashi Das

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