In what ways does the idea of progress shape Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe? If Unoka, Okonkwo, and Nwoye are symbolic of three successive generations, how does society in Umuofia change over the course of their lifetimes? Where does Ikemefuna fit into this picture?

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Things Fall Apart presents a challenge to the positivist idea of history—that conditions continually improve over time—by depicting the change to Umuofia's culture as a result of Christian missionaries. When the novel begins, Okonkwo is a powerful man and a leader in his tribe. He is famous for wrestling and for growing yams, both of which establish his masculinity. Okonkwo lives in opposition to his father before him. His father was a musician and was always poor and asking others for help. Okonkwo resents his father and vows to be nothing like him. In some sense, at least in Okonkwo's mind, his life is better than his father's; he has made progress compared to the generation before him. He hopes that progress will continue with his son Nwoye, but his son is sensitive, unlike Okonkwo. In fact, one of Okonkwo's daughters is his favorite, but he laments that he cannot treat her like a true heir because she is a girl.

Eventually, when the missionaries have taken over the village, Nwoye...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 930 words.)

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