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Analysis and Evaluation of “Things Fall Apart”

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I. Summary

“Things Fall Apart” tells the story of the life of the main character, Okonkwo, from an outside narrator. There are different spatial setting throughout the story including Iguedo and Mbanta while the temporal setting is at the turn of the 19th century. In the beginning of the story Okonkwo was one of them most respected men of his tribe and was constantly moving up the social ladder yearning to join the lords of the tribe. However, after committing crimes against the tribe such as breaking the sacred Week of Peace and committing the murder of one of the tribe’s kinsmen, Okonkwo is exiled from the tribe and is not to return for seven years.

It is while in exile that Okonkwo’s life truly falls apart. For while in exile Okonkwo loses his work ethic, that his life revolved around. Okonkwo dreads that upon return to his clan he would not be known as the highly respected man he was before being exiled. However, Okonkwo’s former reputation would not have mattered upon his return anyway for while in exile Okonkwo’s former clan was taken over by white men. After the seven years Okonkwo does return to his tribe in Iguedo and with all the changes brought upon by the white people he finds it impossible to reclaim the noble stature that he had when he left. Okonkwo is emotionally crushed for his life goal is now unreachable and he now has to give into the British control. Okonkwo gives up and puts an end to all of his problems by killing himself shortly after his return to his homeland.

II. Character.

Okonkwo’s character changes drastically throughout the story. For Okonkwo went from a proud, strong, quick-tempered man that was well known throughout his land, to a man full of self-pity and a quitter by the end. Okonkwo’s change in character came as his life fell apart. However, throughout most of the story Okonkwo was known as the hardworking man who’s life was ruled by the fear of failure and becoming like his father.

One of the rules that Okonkwo set for himself that showed his seriousness would be, show no emotion besides anger for any other showing of emotion would be considered a weakness. Okonkwo could have been looked at as the opposite of his insignificant father who was weak, lazy, bankrupt, and irresponsible man with no desire to achieve any of the titles of rank in the tribe. For it was Okonkwo’s hatred and shame of his father that drove him to be just the opposite of him. However, it is interesting that not only does Okonkwo’s son Nwoye take after his grandfather but Okonkwo eventually also follows in his fathers footsteps, for he eventually gives up on life.

It is no surprise that a prideful and tough guy like Okonkwo would be harsh with his family. Okonkwo was not only strict with his son Nwoye but also with his various wives. This can be shown for one time Okonkwo beats his wife when she did not prepare his food on time. On another incident Okonkwo went as far as almost shooting his second wife at the New Yam festival for Okonkwo thought she cut down his banana tree.

Okonkwo’s firmness can also be seen throughout the book. The event highlighting his firmness would be when Okonkwo accepted the job of killing Ikemefuna, a boy that looked up to Okonkwo and even called Okonkwo father. This must have been very hard for Okonkwo on the inside yet he does not show it and still carries out the act. Okonkwo even carries out the act after he is asked to not kill Ikemefuna by Ogbuefi, the oldest man of the land who was a very important leader of the clan. Until the end of the story the only thing that was ever looked poorly on Okonkwo’s part was when he committed the female version of murder by accidentally killing Ezeudu’s son. Ultimately the reason for Okonkwo’s character was his need to live down the disgrace of his father and consequently this transformed every value that should be good such as personal and physical strength, hard work, courage and firmness into a weakness.

III. Evaluation

I thought that this was an excellent novel and that Chinua Achebe did a great job of showing how things happened in past tribes. This was my second time reading this novel and I got a lot more out of it the second time around. I liked how the book did not drag out the plot for there was always one event after another. Also, the different plot twist that are thrown in the story kept me guessing what was going to happen next.

I first read the book in a history class in order to read how certain tribes were like in Africa in the past. I did not remember much from the story except that I liked it for the reading was simple and straightforward. I think that this story could have worked even better as different journal entries written by Okonkwo telling the story from his point of view rather than having a narrator. However, it is not unlikely that Chinua Achebe as the narrator is telling a modified story of maybe one of his own family members. Also, while reading this time I was able to enjoy the story more rather than having to study the ways the tribes acted and have to look for possible bias that the author had.

My favorite books are usually those that do tend to revolve around the life of one character and highlights the character’s hardships in life such as the book The Catcher in the Rye. I was able to relate to Okonkwo at times such as when he was not able to show his inner emotions. For as a member of the football team if I were to ever show weakness such as being upset when getting yelled at by the coach or even showing exhaustion after a tough practice I would be looked at as weak even though everyone on the team knows they have these same emotions and feelings. Also, I can relate to the way Okonkwo does not want to fall into the same footsteps of his father for I, while loving and respecting my father, also strive to outdo my father and be more successful than him.

What I was able to take out of the story was to not set goals that are too high and that even the good characteristics in life such as hard work and strictness can become a weakness if they are pushed to the extreme. Also, I was able to see that one has to be nice to people no matter where they live for even Okonkwo had to apologize to a much lesser man after insulting him at a meeting. What I also plan to take from this story is the reinforcement that even when things do not go my way to still not give up on my goals and quit like Okonkwo did. In short I enjoyed reading this novel for it was formatted similar other stories I like, I was able to relate to Okonkwo through out the story, and I was able to learn new life lessons while having others reinforced.

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