What are the major lessons in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the lessons of this book is that colonialism is a process that literally makes things fall apart. After white missionaries appear in Umuofia, a part of Nigeria, the community is torn apart by people who follow them and find appeal in their message, and by those who resist. Even families are torn apart, as Okonkwo is opposed to any change, and his son, Nwoye, turns to Christianity and even changes his name. Christianity serves to deepen rifts that already exist, such as between Okonkwo and his son, and to create new divisions.

In a more personal sense, the book is about how Okonkwo's constant need to show traditional masculine behaviors such as aggression leads to bad outcomes. After Okonkwo kills his beloved adopted son, Ikemefuna, his life starts to decline. He loves Ikemefuna but kills him because it is the tradition to do so, and Okonkwo does not want to appear weak before other men in the village. When Okonkwo's gun goes off at a funeral and kills the son of the deceased man, Okonkwo must live in exile for several years. It is his need to appear tough and have a gun with him that causes his undoing, as the village changes irreparably while he is away. In the end, in the face of appearing weak before the colonial powers, he has no choice but to kill himself. His constant need to appear combative and his inability to deal with change leave him no other options. 

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Things Fall Apart

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