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In Chinua Achebe's first novel, things fall apart for the story's protagonist, Okonkwo, as well as the Igbo village of Umuofia, for various reasons. In regards to Okonkwo, he is portrayed as a tragic hero whose demise is his own undoing. Okonkwo is depicted as a callous, violent man who desperately fears becoming like his unsuccessful father, Unoka. Okonkwo overcompensates by exercising his masculinity and force whenever he is presented with an opportunity to display his prowess. Okonkwo ends up killing Ikemefuna, which ruins his relationship with Nwoye, and accidentally kills a young man during a warrior's funeral, resulting in a seven-year exile and the loss of his esteemed titles. When Okonkwo returns to Umuofia, the white colonists have significantly altered his village, and he reacts with violence by decapitating a white messenger. Okonkwo's final act compels him to commit suicide rather than suffer the humiliation of being arrested by the white colonists. One could argue that Okonkwo's hyper-masculinity and intolerance lead to his demise.

In regards to the Igbo village of Umuofia falling apart, the influence of the white colonists dramatically dismantles the traditional way of life, as the villagers become assimilated into western culture. Initially, the white colonists introduce the Igbo villagers to Christianity and built a church. The Europeans then construct a trading post, school, and hospital, which raises the standard of living in Umuofia and gradually undermines their traditional culture. When Okonkwo returns from his exile, he discovers the significant influence of white colonists and recognizes that the traditional Igbo way of life has changed. At the end of the story, the colonists have completely infiltrated every part of Igbo society, and western culture threatens to annihilate the traditional African way of life.

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