In Things Fall Apart, how does the Igbo culture hold the clan together?

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Chinua Achebe generally portrays Igbo culture as a positive force from which the people draw strength. Many features of the society contribute to the overall sense of cohesion, and people work together toward common goals. Within those commonalities, however, individuals strive to achieve and to outdo each other.

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Chinua Achebe generally portrays Igbo culture as a positive force from which the people draw strength. Many features of the society contribute to the overall sense of cohesion, and people work together toward common goals. Within those commonalities, however, individuals strive to achieve and to outdo each other.

One key example is yam cultivation. While everyone benefits from a good harvest because no one should go hungry, individual farmers vie to grow the most yams. Their success is celebrated at the harvest festival. Everyone joins together to fete the New Yam with shared food and drink. During the festival, individual men compete at wrestling.

The forces that fortify cohesion may also encourage obedience to group practices, however, even when they go against individual values. This negative aspect is seen when Okonkwo participates in killing Ikewifina, despite having cherished the boy like a family member.

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It is clear from Achebe's presentation of Okonkwo and his people that the Ibo have their own very rich system of society that gives testament to a diverse and structured culture that has its own systems of rewards and punishments that allow people to interact and live within some kind of order. This is referenced at various points in the novel. Consider the way that Okonkwo is punished for both breaking the Week of Peace but also the exile he is forced to endure when he commits murder. Also, the tale explains how Ikemefuna joined Okonkwo's family because of a carefully organised system of punishment:

...Okonkwo had been chosen by the nine villages to carry a message of war to their enemies unless they agreed to give up a young man and a virgin to atone for the murder of Udo's wife.

This is a specific example of how war between Umuofia and another tribe was avoided through the accepted cultural practice of one tribe giving some of its members to another tribe as a peace offering. The exchange of the virgin and Ikemefuna is something that allows peace to exist between two feuding tribes and keeps the people living in some kind of ordered system. It is important to recognise the way that Achebe is challenging Western notions of the Africans before colonisation. He presents them having their own carefully regulated system of law and order that clearly exposes any Western notions of Africans being "uncivilised savages" as false.

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