11 Themes from the Book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

  • 2023-01-11 20:14:34

 
 
The book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a story about the rise and fall of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria. The novel explores themes of tradition vs. change, culture clash, and power struggles. 
The star of the story is a man by the name of Okonkwo is a warrior. He has successfully wrestled, Amalinze the cat. He has been undefeated for 7 years. That earns him a good name and respect. 
One of the major themes in Things Fall Apart is culture clash. The arrival of Christian missionaries causes great upheaval in the Igbo tribe, as their way of life is threatened by this new religion. Another theme explored in the novel is power struggles.
Let's look at various themes from Chinua Achebe's things fall apart.
 
Tradition
The novel things fall apart is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a time of great change for Nigeria. The arrival of British colonists and Christian missionaries was slowly eroding traditional Igbo culture. This created a lot of tension within the community, as some people clung to tradition while others embraced change.
The biggest culture clash in the novel is between the Igbo tribe and the Christian missionaries who come to their village. The Christians want to convert the villagers to their religion, which threatens the traditional Igbo way of life. This leads to conflict and ultimately, the downfall of the Igbo tribe.

Power Struggles
The book also explores power struggles. The novel centers on Okonkwo, a man who has achieved great power within his clan. However, when he goes against the village elders and kills a man, he is exiled from Umuofia. This leads to a power struggle between Okonkwo and his adopted son, Nwoye. Ultimately, this struggle leads to the downfall of the Igbo tribe as well.
The protagonist Okonkwo wants to keep power by all means even by killing his son Ikemefuma. 
 
Fate vs. Free Will
Another theme that is explored in things fall apart is the idea of fate vs. free will. Okonkwo believes he is a man who has control over his own destiny. However, as the novel progresses, there are forces beyond his control that determine the course of his life. This ultimately leads to his downfall.
 
Gender Roles
In the book, Things fall apart, we get to understand various gender roles in the Igbo society. In Igbo society, men and women have very different roles and responsibilities. Men are expected to be strong and forceful, while they expected women to be submissive and reproductive.
These rigid gender roles lead to conflict within the community, as some women like Ekwefi challenge traditional expectations. In the end, things fall apart themes show that when different cultures collide, it can lead to conflict and ultimately, the downfall of one or both cultures.
 
Masculinity
Achebe did a good job portraying what it’s like to be an African man. Growing up and taking on responsibility to protect and preserve your family name and traditions is what our protagonist does at every step. 
The novel explores the idea of what it means to be a man in Igbo society. Okonkwo is the epitome of masculinity in the novel, and he strives to live up to the ideal. However, his rigid adherence to masculine values leads to tragedy in his personal life.
Okonkwo feels Nwoye is not masculine enough. He is not into wrestling like other men in his clan. Nwoye adopts the religious beliefs of the white man and forgets everything considered masculine in his culture.
 
Language
While Africa is popularly known as the dark continent, it is rich in language and culture. In this book, we explore the rich culture in Igbo words. The use of Igbo plays an important role in giving this novel an identity.
Language is another important theme explored in things fall apart. The novel is set in a time when the Igbo people are coming into contact with the British colonizers. As such, there is a lot of focus on the differences between the two cultures and their languages. This ultimately leads to misunderstandings and conflict between the two groups.
 
Religion
Religion is also an important theme explored in things fall apart themes. Okonkwo does not like anything that has weaknesses especially when it comes down to him or other people around him, because he thinks they will make fun of him if they know his weaknesses.
The British introduce the Igbo to the white man's religion which differs from the African tradition. Okonkwo and his like are torn between religion and maintaining their beliefs and customs.
 
Family
Family is a basic unit in every society. Chinua Achebe showcases the African feel of family in how African value family and extended family units that build our societies. The book focuses on the role of a man in the family unit. 
A man is a provider and protector. Okonkwo like his father has to work hard and provide for his family. He has to grow yam to sustain the family and also carries on the tradition. He is also responsible for restoring his father’s name by becoming the leader Umuofia needs. 
It also shows polygamy as family. Okonkwo and other men in his society have several wives and kids. They take care of them equally and ensure they are happy and satisfied. 
Change
Change is a central theme in Things Fall Apart. The story unravels as things start to change in a small clan in the Igbo community. The novel focuses on the changing culture of the Igbo people, as they come into contact with British colonizers. This change leads to conflict and ultimately, the downfall of Okonkwo and his way of life.
 
Respect and Reputation
People in Umuofia value respect over anything else. Unoka lost his respect for failing to pay off his debts before death and grow yams. His son wanted to keep his respect and redeem his family name. When the oracle told him to kill Ikemefuma, he had to do it to show his bravery.
Men like Okonkwo had a good reputation for the number of wives they had. Marrying more than one wife in tradition African Society was a symbol of status and hence it was for respected men in the society.

Fear
There was fear over the introduction of Christianity by British missionaries. People in Umuofia did not want to anger the gods and cause bloodshed. Also, they had an eye out for colonial rule which was changing their way of life and interfering with their freedom.
Towards the end of the novel, there is a struggle when Okonkwo seems to have joined the outcasts. He seems to think religion is not evil. Yet, the people do not support him when he calls them to stand up against the foreign invasion.
 
Father vs. Son in Things Fall Apart
 
Nwoye defies his father and rejects the traditional way of life. Nwoye, Okonkwo's son runs off and joins Christianity instead of becoming a wrestler like his father and grandfather.
Our protagonist in Things fall apart hates his father. He is determined to become successful, unlike his father who was a coward. While Okonkwo thinks he can do better than his failure father, he ends up in the same predicament.

Be sure to explore more themes and find befitting examples for the themes above.