Things Fall Apart" the author, Chinua Achebe, offers a unique perspective on Africa and the effect of European civilization on Africa. The story is told with a focus on the central character, Okonkwo. This focus gives the book a definite sense of reality, makes the theme of the tragedy of the change more forceful and also says something greater about all societies. We will begin by giving a brief overview of the story, especially the story of Okonkwo. We will then discuss the sense of reality, the themes and the tragedy of the story and finally the greater meaning of the novel.
The Story of Okonkwo
The book starts by telling Okonkwo's story and his rise to the top of his African tribe. At the same time, his story also tells us about African culture. Without needing to lecture on the subject, the reader becomes aware of the traditions of African society. More importantly, instead of being described, the reader sees how they work in practice. We see that Okonkwo is a respected and successful man within the tribe. He has three wives, is a champion wrestler, a successful farmer, a title-holder and a member of the elite egwugwu. All this shows us that he is a success, is in a powerful position and is seen as a leader of the tribe. Even while we see that Okonkwo is a successful man, we also see that he is not a perfect one. He does not treat his wives well, he is often violent and is also obsessed with his success. We also see Okonkwo as a lesser man when he helps to kill Ikemefuna, a boy that he was selected to be the guardian of. The boy lives with Okonkwo for three years and the boy thinks of Okonkwo like a father. The elders decide that the boy must be killed and Okonkwo is warned not to take part in the killing. However, he takes part anyway. Here we see that his violent nature, his obsession with success and his need to be seen as manly, all allow him to do what seems heartless to the reader.
Shortly after this, Okonkwo accidentally kills someone at a funeral ceremony. This is a crime against the Earth and Okonkwo and his family are sent into exile for seven years. It is in these seven years that the white Europeans enter the African society and begin changing it. When Okonkwo returns to his village after seven years, the Europeans have brought their beliefs and religions into the African society and many people of the village have converted. They have also introduced their government and trade. There is no interest in Okonkwo's arrival, signifying that he is no longer seen as powerful and respected as he once was. Okonkwo reacts both to the changes in the tribe and to his own loss of power. He tries to reclaim land by destroying a European church. The native Africans then gather ready for an uprising. When members of the new European government try to stop them, Okonkwo beheads one of them. At this point, Okonkwo realizes there is no hope for the African tribe, while they are talking of war and Okonkwo beheads one of them, nobody else reacts. He realizes there will be no uprising and kills himself. This suicide is a desecration of the earth goddess. This final action represents that the African society is gone, it has been desecrated and Okonkwo sees no hope for it.
The Sense of Reality
It is largely the character of Okonkwo that gives the work its sense of reality. We have seen that Okonkwo is a successful man within the tribe, yet is not a perfect man. This shows a real truth in representation within the novel. As with many societies, the leader is not always perfect. Okonkwo is far from perfect, but he does have the ability to succeed in what makes him important in the eyes of society. Again, this is realistic to the nature of any society. Okonkwo is a great man in that he has the strength and courage that society respects. He has adapted to society. It is also relevant that he is successful because he places priority on his own success. As…