Illustration of a person holding their head next to a noose and a detached head

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Start Free Trial

Describe pre-colonial Nigeria and Igbo lifestyle in Things Fall Apart.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In addition to the values and traditions mentioned in the previous post, the Igbo people also had their own judicial and punitive system established. Men in the village were secretly elected to be Egwugwu. The men would wear masks to hide their identity. The people believed that when the men wore the masks, the spirit of a god would enter them. These egwugwu would listen to grievances in the community and pass judgement and punishment.

The process of this judicial system is seen when the egwugwu pass judgment on a husband who beat his wife so badly that she miscarried. The wife runs away to her family and the husband demands that her dowry be repaid. The egwugwu order the wife to return to her husband and tell him that he may no longer beat her.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The traditional Igbo way of life presented in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is considerably different from the culture of the colonial influences which eventually settle in Umuofia. The traditional Igbo culture is marked by their belief in personal gods, called chi, over the Western Christian God; they are polytheistic rather than monotheistic. Their actions determine how their personal gods react, which resembles what Hindus and Buddhists call karma.

The Igbo culture in Achebe's novel has customs that are substantially different from those Western readers are familiar with. The Igbo men take multiple wives; the number of wives a man has is equivalent to their social standing and wealth. Other customs include the labeling of certain areas taboo and forbidden for the clansmen to visit and the importance placed upon snakes. Snakes are sacred animals in Okonkwo's village. Finally, the village follows and deeply respects the advice passed on by the Oracle of the Hills and Cave. The Oracle is hugely important in determining various decisions for the clan. These are just some of the elements of traditional Igbo life Achebe depicts.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial