How does Achebe use the complexity of society in Things Fall Apart?

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dashing-danny-dillinger eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chinua Achebe uses the complexities of a changing society as a major, pervasive force in his debut novel Things Fall Apart. This social complexity is manifested through the colonial influence that enters Umuofia and upsets its established norms and values:

“Umuofia had indeed changed during the seven years Okonkwo had been in exile. The church had come and led many astray. Not only the low-born and the outcast but sometimes a worthy man had joined it” (174).

Indeed, Okonkwo is unable and unwilling to adjust to the changes that white settlers have brought to his area, and this causes the majority of the conflict in the novel. Okonkwo laments the changes that have afflicted Umuofia and, in his mind, weakened the “masculine” nature of his clan:

“Perhaps I have been away too long.... But I cannot understand these things you tell me. What is it that has happened to our people? Why have they lost their power to fight?” (175).

Okonkwo resents these changes to Umuofia, and this ultimately leads to his demise. Okonkwo is no longer able to exist in a society that does not value his brutal, masculine values, and he hangs himself. This is how Achebe uses the complexities of society in his novel.

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Things Fall Apart

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