The novel is structured in three parts. What do the divisions reflect in the protagonist's life and the move towards and collapse of Igbo society?
The first part of the novel introduces Umuofia, a coalition of nine vlllages of the Igbo people. Okwokwo is introduces as the protagonist of the novel. He is well off, having worked hard with his three wives to fill two barns with yams; he is a respected warrior and has two titles. The main purpose of part one is to show the successful side of Okwonkwo and to show him as the personification of the Igbo culture.
In Part 2, Okwonkwo is disgraced and sent to live in his mother's village. The purpose of this part is to show Okwonkwo's refusal to change his ways and to allow timre for the Europeans to arrive in Umuofia and begin changing life there. Okwonkwo is supposed to be learning how to learn about a mother's love, but he ends up gathering wealth through farming yams and dreams of returning to his village, which he believes will be unchanged and allow him to once again take a leadership role.
In Part 3, Okwonkwo returns to his village to find it has greatly changed. Christianity and the Europeans are changing traditional Ibgo beliefs and Okwonkwo simply cannot adapt to the changes and sees his way of life collapsing. In the end "things fall apart" and Okwonkwo takes his own life.