What is the main idea of Things Fall Apart?
To understand the main idea of Achebe's Things Fall Apart, think about how the author explores colonization and masculinity. Okonkwo, the main character, wants to be viewed as powerful; ultimately, he takes his own life after witnessing the rising power and influence of British colonization.
First, it is clear that Achebe explores the topic of colonization in the novel. The story is set in Nigeria during the late 19th century. The main protagonist, Okonkwo, is a traditionalist who upholds many of the practices and values of Igbo culture. In the story, Okonkwo is faced with the growing prominence of British colonialism, which appears in the form of Christian missionaries who try to convert the natives and steer them away from their indigenous spiritual systems. Think about how Okonkwo represents old systems and how the missionaries represent new systems when determining the main idea of the story.
Second, it is evident that masculinity, or the performance of masculinity, is a reoccurring theme in the novel. Okonkwo spends much of the novel trying to embody what he believes masculinity should be. He distances himself from his father, Unoka, whose lax disposition Okonkwo despises. Okonkwo views his father as weak and unmasculine since he is not financially successful nor ambitious. Okonkwo does everything he can to be unlike his father; he amasses wealth and participates in activities like wrestling to showcase his masculine strength. Nevertheless, Okonkwo is so determined to live up to his expectations of masculinity that he engages in behaviors that have a negative impact on him emotionally like killing Ikemefuna in an attempt to not appear weak. When thinking about the novel's main idea, pay close attention to how Okonkwo's efforts to be viewed as masculine help or hurt him, especially as he deals with the increasing power of colonization.