Essay title: Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart was published in 1958. Its fundamental theme, in Achebe's words, is "that African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans." It is a celebration of the depth, value, and beauty of tribal society. Also of the "dignity that African people all but lost during the colonial period.
This novel has been translated into over forty languages and has sold well over three million copies.The title of this novel is taken from a W.B. Yeats poem, 'The Second Coming':Things Fall Apart; the centre cannot hold;Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhereThe ceremony of innocence is drowned.It is, then, a novel about the destruction of one age and the beginning of another. "The centre cannot hold;" – in other words, the balance which holds all the varied elements of a world in equilibrium is lost, and everything becomes unravelled.
Achebe sees the colonisation experience of Nigeria in tragic terms. Umofian society, representative of pre-colonial Nigeria, is a vibrant, sophisticated, complex structure, with a high level of democracy – witness the endless discussions and debates among the people with respect to the rules of religion and politics; also the fact that titles are given on merit and can be taken away if there is cause, such that no-one can ever hide behind inherited privileges. But all this is undone by the arrival of the colonisers with their own, very distinct sense of social administration and their absolute disregard for tribal society.
What gives balance and stability to Umofian society, (until that is, "Things Fall Apart") is the tension between individuality and communal concerns. The individual fights for his own (and it usually is 'his' own, not 'her' own) honour and success, and this enterprise is rewarded; but if his actions are excessive, or if they might inflict damage on the greater community, they are checked by law and by religious principles.It is perhaps a flaw in Okonkwo that his desire for personal eminence and prosperity is paramount; and in the end, for him, just as for Umuofia itself, "the centre cannot hold'', and "Things Fall Apart.
"Achebe himself has indicated that Okonkwo's central flaw is his inability to achieve a balance. "Okonkwo's whole life," he has said, "is an attempt to make up for what his father didn't achieve. This is a great mistake.
..". There are people who reflect the other half of human reality, the music side, the story side, as opposed to the war side (and Achebe includes both Okonkwo's father and his son, Nwoye, here), and one is as valid as the other. The flaw of Okonkwo – not only of Okonkwo but to some extent of Ezeulu – is that he would not give way ultimately.
"With Things Fall Apart, Achebe openly wished to counter the influence of European novels about Africa; and as a private purpose he meant the novel to be "an act of atonement with my past, the ritual return and homage of a prodigal son." This does not mean that he idealises Ibo society. He is a witness to the truth, and so, as he has said, "I bend over backwards to paint in all the unsavoury, all the unfavourable aspects of that culture."GenreThings Fall Apart is a tragic narrative. Fables and story telling form the kernel of the narrative approach because the traditional style of the African continent is used.General Vision or ViewpointThe general vision from this novel is how the cohesiveness and unity of African clans and tribes are made to ‘fall apart’ with the coming of Colonialism. The actual division of the novel corresponds to the changes within this society both before and after the coming of Colonialism.
The first part of the text depicts pre-colonial Umofia and Okonkwo’s rise from poverty to wealth. Then the novel traces Okonkwo’s life in exile to his mother clan Mbanta. It is during his exile that colonialism is introduced into Ibo society.
The final part of the novel deals with Okonkwo’s return to Umofia, which is followed by his death shortly after this. Colonialism is not seen to be a totally negative concept in the novel. Certain aspects such as Christianity, the establishment of political units, and the use of the English language are seen as positive elements. Christianity though initially seen with suspicion was welcomed because it conveyed a sense of benevolence and love and the idea of God as fatherCultural.