Illustration of a person holding their head next to a noose and a detached head

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe
Start Free Trial

Things fall apart in the Igbo society only to be replaced with aspects of new western culture; what are some examples of this from Things Fall Apart, and were these changes negative or positive? 

Aspects of the Western culture in Things Fall Apart may sometimes be intrinsically positive, but its influence still destroys the ancient and complex tribal culture of the Igbo people. One example of this is the Christian Church, which has many similarities with Igbo beliefs and begins to replace and erode the traditional culture.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The principal point Achebe makes about the influence of the West in Things Fall Apart is not that it is inherently better or worse than Igbo culture but that it is destructive. Igbo culture has developed slowly over the centuries. Like Okonkwo, who symbolizes what it means to survive and flourish in this environment, the culture is harsh and brutal but also magnificent. It includes sophisticated traditions of storytelling and ritual. Western culture occasionally destroys Igbo culture in a sudden and violent manner, as it does in wiping out Abame, but for the most part the Western influence is slow and insidious.

The best example of the way in which Western culture undermines and eventually replaces that of the Igbo is the Christian church. Mr. Brown's dialogues with Akunna make it clear that Christianity has much in common with traditional Igbo beliefs, and Achebe himself is not hostile to the Christian faith. Nonetheless, it is culturally destructive. The church initially seems harmless, built on land that no one wants and serving as a refuge for outcasts. As it grows, however, it begins to eclipse the traditional religion, and when Mr. Brown leaves, the new minister, Mr. Smith, causes conflict through his disregard of the tribe's customs. Oknonkwo's suicide is a symbol of the way in which the traditional culture of the Igbo finally expires due to external competition, in the same way that a species introduced into a new environment will often destroy every trace of those that have lived in that habitat for millennia.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team