Things Fall Apart Questions and Answers
by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Things Fall Apart, why does Okonkwo commit suicide and what is the final message of this work? 

Okonkwo was once considered the greatest warrior alive, but he cannot stop the European Christian white men who have come in to take control and change his village traditions. Okonkwo finally gives up hope and hangs himself, even though it is a disgrace to commit suicide in his tribe.

Expert Answers info

Elliot Tyson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write149 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Business, and Law and Politics

Published in 1958, Things Fall Apart is a novel by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. It details life in southeast Nigeria prior to and in the aftermath of the arrival of white European colonists in the late 1800s. The lead character, Okonkwo, is a local Igbo wrestling champion and farmer. He's extremely impulsive, brash, and inflexible. He fears being considered anything less than an alpha male. He abhors compromise, and is too proud to accept any of the new customs brought to his land by the settlers.

In third section of the novel, tensions rise between Okonkwo's tribe and the colonists over a series of conflicts. Things reach a boiling point when British court messengers humiliate and attack some of the local tribe members. In response, Okonkwo takes up arms and declares war against the colonists. In a fit of fury, he beheads one of the messengers. He believes that others in his tribe will stand alongside him in his crusade. Unfortunately, they don't; he is alone. Desperate and fearful, two emotions he doesn't want others to see in him, he hangs himself in his home before he can be hauled off to court for trial and punishment.

The text makes several statements on the nature of colonization and the society the colonizers sought to target. The colonists are almost a force of nature, sweeping in with new means, methods, politics, technologies, religion, and language. The natives are proud, strong, rich in their culture and history, and traditional. But the colonists see the natives as savage and in need of leadership. While the natives are often depicted as resistant to change, they're more afraid of standing up to their aggressors than defending their values. These perceived weaknesses made them more susceptible to outside influence. Change was inevitable.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12), Professional Writer

bookB.A. from Calvin University

bookM.A. from Dordt University

calendarEducator since 2014

write6,200 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and History

This is a solid discussion question because there is no single correct answer. Readers are not told exactly what motivated Okonkwo to kill himself, so it is left up to individual readers to come up with a plausible explanation.

Okonkwo has had some fairly rough patches in his life. He believes that his father is a disgrace, he's helped murder his adopted son, and he's been banished from his community for seven years. Despite those things, he is quite revered as a great man in his culture. He is warrior of a man and wealthy as well. Consequently, he is generally well respected, and he's grown accustomed to getting his way about a lot of things. Okonkwo doesn't believe that his people should stand by and let the Christians in, but his people refuse to go to war. At this point, he's not getting his way, and he thinks his people are growing weak. He's been losing hope, and the final meeting makes him lose the final bit of hope that he had to hold out against all of the changes he doesn't want to happen. With no hope left, Okonkwo decides that death is better than...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 987 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

lsumner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write1,184 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial