Things Fall Apart is structured in three parts. What do the divisions reflect about the stages of life of the protagonist? How do the divisions move toward and illustrate the collapse of Igbo...
Things Fall Apart is structured in three parts. What do the divisions reflect about the stages of life of the protagonist? How do the divisions move toward and illustrate the collapse of Igbo society?
The way that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is divided reflects not only the stages of Okonkwo’s life, but also the progress of Western colonialism within Umuofia. The first section of the novel is centered on Okonkwo’s life as a warrior and successful member of his tribe. In the beginning of the novel, Western influence has not yet entered and Okonkwo’s traditional values are still very relevant. By the end of the first section, however, major changes are afoot. Christian missionaries have entered the area and Okonkwo has been banished for seven years to his mother’s homeland of Mbanta.
The second section of the novel details Okonkwo’s life in flux. Throughout section two, Okonkwo lives in exile and Umuofia changes while he is gone. Christian missionaries spread their influence, even captivating Okonkwo’s young son Nwoye:
“It was not the mad logic of the Trinity that captivated him. He did not understand it. It was the poetry of the new religion, something felt in the marrow” (147).
Finally, in the third section, Okonkwo returns to Umuofia, but finds it completely changed in the seven years that he has been in exile. Colonialism has forever altered Umuofia, and Okonkwo’s values no longer hold the same importance that they once did. Okonkwo mourns for his clan and what they have become:
“Okonkwo was deeply grieved. And it was not just a personal grief. He mourned for the clan, which he saw breaking up and falling apart, and he mourned for the warlike men of Umuofia, who had so unaccountably become soft like women” (183).
The divisions in the novel function to illustrate Okonkwo’s successful life in Umuofia, his exile, and his eventual return to a completely changed Umuofia. Okonkwo’s fate is inextricably tied to the traditional tribal values of the region, and thus the region changes in each of these sections through pervasive Western influence.