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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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How does the title "Things Fall Apart" relate to the theme of fear?

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The motif of fear plays a significant role in the text Things Fall Apart. Since the novel's tragic hero Okonkwo has several significant fears, everything does just what the title suggests: it falls apart.

It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. Even as a little boy he had resented his father's failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title. And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion —to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness.

Okonkwo fears that he may be like his father one day, so he continuously sets goals and pushes himself to be more than his father was. He resolves to not be seen as lazy and to always be able to take care of his family. It is Okonkwo's fear of appearing weak like his father that pushes him to kill the young Ikemefuna, a boy from a rival tribe.

Okonkwo also fears change within the Igbo. He loves the traditions and customs of his tribe. He sees the colonizing, white British as the end of his culture as the invade Umofia. The British, who also seem to fear the Igbo way of life, seek to teach them their religion, customs, and traditions. Okonkwo's suicide is an attempt to preserve his culture and represents his fear of letting go of what life in Umofia could be.

Fear in the novel leads to the end of Okonkwo and teach us that we should embrace the differences in cultures and not be afraid of them.

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