Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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What is the theme in the novel Things Fall Apart?  

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the primary themes in Achebe's classic novel concerns the clash of cultures. When the white Europeans colonize the region, they begin to convert the villagers of Umuofia as they slowly introduce Igbo society to western culture. More and more villagers convert to Christianity and begin to assimilate into the European culture, which undermines their traditional African ways of life. The village of Umuofia is dramatically transformed and staunch, intolerant traditionalists like Okonkwo rebel against their changing culture. The European colonizers and the Igbo traditionalists oppose each other and misunderstandings between each culture lead to bloodshed. Achebe explores the unfortunate outcomes involved in a culture clash.

Another primary theme explored throughout the novel concerns one's destiny. Various references are made to Okonkwo's chi and whether or not his destiny is positive. Initially, Okonkwo's chi is portrayed as positive and aligns with his determined, hard-working personality. As the novel progresses, Okonkwo makes several terrible decisions and his chi is described as being cursed, which implies that he was doomed from the beginning to die like his father. Okonkwo becomes a tragic hero, whose inflexible, masculine nature leads to his demise. Throughout the novel, Okonkwo loses his titles, is exiled to his motherland, and eventually commits suicide after decapitating a white messenger.

Achebe also explores the theme of the complexities of Igbo culture. As a response to Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, Achebe describes the complexities of Igbo culture in detail. Achebe illustrates the rich Nigerian traditions, depicts the various rituals of Igbo society, and presents its judicial system as sound, coherent, and fair. Achebe describes various religious ceremonies and the villagers of Umuofia are depicted as intelligent and civilized. Achebe's novel challenges prejudiced beliefs of the time regarding Africans by depicting the Igbo culture as rich, fascinating, and civil.

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djbutler241 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Things Fall Apart has three primary themes. The first theme is the conflict between evolution and tradition. Many of the villagers are looking forward to new opportunities but are also afraid of the impact that these changes will have. Okonkwo does not want to lose his masculinity...

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