Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a modern classic tale of a young man who defies all odds to garner honor upon him. The White Man arrives and life is thrown off-balance. He can only hurtle towards tragedy. Set in the African continent: it talks of the Ibo people and their struggles.
Okonkwo is a resident of a cluster of villages called Umuofia. Okonkwo is the principal character; he is the mightiest wrestler the village has seen. He comes from a very humble background. Ashamed of his father’s laziness and multiplying debts he aspired to be the man his father never could be. He had defeated the strongest man Amalinze in a wrestling contest when he was only eighteen. Even at the age of thirty-eight he is still considered the strongest.
Okonkwo’s world starts changing when a boy from the neighboring village comes to live with him and is finally killed as a revenge for one of their own women having been killed by the boy’s village. When Okonkwo accidently kills a boy of his own village is when things start falling apart. He is banished to his mother’s village. By the time he returns to his own village things have changed beyond recognition. Not only his way of life but the whole village is now under the terror of the White Man. They talk about a Universal God and his son who do not reside in trees, stones and Mother Earth. Turning out the white men is easy but how do they gorge out their own people who are now following the new ways. Their traditional customs and rituals are under threat and the new law is turning the son against the father and brother against brother.
The novel brilliantly delves into the coming of the missionaries and colonial governors to the Dark Continent, in a land steeped with culture and heritage. It educates the reader about the glory of their past and pre-colonial life. At the same time the novel shows the resistance of the Ibo people to change. A society that has gone rigid in their outlook with the passage of time and refuse to recognize changes in their circumstances, let alone coming to terms with them. This in turn puts them out of tune with contemporary reality, leading to their tragic end. This implies also of every other civilization that had been colonized. Hence the novel speaks of human predicament and is universal in character.
Things Fall Apart resonates with strength and successfully attempts to give dignity to a race crucified time and again. Africa is portrayed not as an exotic land seen from western perspective but as Africans see themselves: human beings struggling to come to terms with their changing reality.