Chinua Achebe wrote the novel Things Fall Apart to show the Igbo culture and the effect of colonization on it from an African’s point of view. Throughout the novel, the themes of masculinity vs. feminism and weak vs. strong were developed with regards to a clansman named Okonkwo. Pre-colonial Okonkwo was a wealthy clansman who had many titles. After colonization, he was poor, lost all of his titles, and lost his freedom. This, in part, was due to Okonkwo’s internal struggles of masculinity vs. feminism and weak vs. strong. Before colonization, Okonkwo did not want to be like his father. His father was a lazy alcoholic who did nothing but drink and play his flute. Okonkwo saw this as being weak. He was very much the opposite of this. He was a hard worker, had many titles, and was wealthy. Achebe writes, “it was fear from himself, least he should be found to resemble his father.” This fear drove Okonkwo to be the best and noblest man in the clan, however, he was very violent toward his three wives. Okonkwo’s anger gets the best of him when he gets into a fight with one of his wives. The story shows this in the passage, “he pressed the trigger and there was a loud report accompanied by the wail of his wives and children.” After colonization, Okonkwo realized that he had become a relic in that compliance rather than violence constitutes the wisest principle for survival when white man came to live among the Umuofians. This goes against what Okonkwo places value in. Fear of being like his father is what drove this in him. All of this can be seen when Achebe writes, “perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man … but his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness.” This fear ultimately led Okonkwo to take his own life by hanging himself after killing a messenger to the white man. He took his own life because, “he knew that Umuofia would not go to war” and that the white man would end up coming for him.
Okonkwo’s choices led to his own demise. His suicide was seen as a crime in that, “it is an abomination for a man to take his own life … it is an offense against the Earth.” He did this because he was both unable and unwilling to change in the face of adversity in the form of colonization of the Igbo clan by the white man. His fear of being perceived of as being weak kept him from changing in order to survive. This affected the whole clan in that it lost a respected leader. This is seen when Obierika, Okonkwo’s friend, says, “that man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia.” Okonkwo did not change after the colonization of the Igbo clan by the white man. His internal struggle to remain masculine and strong proved to be more important than surviving. His point of view and how it was uncompromising in the face of adversity was Achebe’s main point of this novel. Dedication to one’s values is timeless and affects all.
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