In Things Fall Apart, how does Achebe use setting, characters, or plot to communicate the theme of continuity and change?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way in which characters are used to present the theme of continuity and change which is so important in this work is through the character of one of the oldest members of the umunna at the end of Chapter 19, who rises to thank Okonkwo for holding the feast that they are enjoying. His speech is particularly important to the issues that the tribe are confronting and speak of the way in which lack of unity is allowing change to become stronger than continuity. Note what he says to the assembled crowd:

But I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice. And what is the result? An abominable religion has settled among you. A man can now leave his father and his brothers. He can curse the gods of his fathers and his ancestors, like a hunter's dog that suddenly goes mad and turns on his master. I fear for you; I fear for the clan.

His speech clearly outlines what he fears is happening to the tribe in the way that its unity is becoming subtley undermined by Christianity which is eroding the continuity of the tribe, which is presented through the first section of the book as we are introducted to a culture and values and norms that have remained inviolate for centuries. This character, although he is nameless, is used by Achebe therefore to indicate the way in which Christianity as a foreign religion is acting as something like a cancer, slowly and secretly destroying tribal practices.


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