Things Fall Apart was written in 1958 by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. The protagonist of the novel is Okonkwo, a member of the Igbo tribe who lives in the village of Umuofia. Nwoye is the son of Okonkwo by his first wife, and as his eldest son, he is a powerful figure in the family by right of position in the patriarchal hierarchy of the novel.
Nwoye is a thoughtful, intelligent, and sensitive young man who enjoys folktales and cares deeply for Ikemefuna, a young boy being cared for by Okonkwo. Nwoye's gentle nature subjects him to frequent criticism and anger on the part of Okonkwo. He is very empathetic, and he eventually breaks with his father completely over his father's murder of Ikemefuna. He serves as a foil to the toxic masculinity of Okonkwo. Eventually, Nwoye is disowned by his father as he converts to Christianity, renames himself Isaac, and leaves to study in Umuru.
Religion is an extremely important theme in the novel and the lives of the characters. Nigeria had been colonized by the British who brought with them Christianity. The local Igbo gods and spirits are important to Okonkwo as part of his own belief system and identity. For Okonkwo, traditional beliefs valorize his sense of masculinity and the role of men as strong and powerful. Nwoye is distressed by the often harsh or cruel dictates of traditional religion, especially the treatment of infant twins, and his conversion to the more compassionate religion of Christianity is something Okonkwo sees as a betrayal of himself, his family, and Nigerian identity.