Things Fall Apart is a novel written by Chinua Achebe, an African writer who is able to shed a new light on the emotions that the African people went through when Europe starts to establish colonies on their land. It is told through the eyes of Okonkwo who, despite an ill upbringing, is known to be a very respected and hardworking man in his clan. As missionaries start to get built on their land without their consent, people of Okonkwo’s clan, including his own son, starts to throw away their African culture and religion in order to believe in Christianity.
Chinua Achebe is able to correctly express the story of the Africans, the side that is not told and is not understood. This novel is situated around the central theme that no matter how well prepared you are, the endless possibilities of the future can ruin your plans. From the very beginning of the novel, Okonkwo is depicted as a very masculine and hardworking man doing whatever the can to avoid ending up like his father, who was very unsuccessful. He did everything he could to bring up his son so that he would be as strong as him, and even had plans for himself to be one of the nine masked spirits who administered justice in the clan.
However, one by one, misfortunes came tumbling towards him. Okonkwo had to go to exile because he committed a crime and couldn’t come back to the clan for 7 years. By the time he returned to his clan, he no longer held the respectable position he had worked so hard for in his clan, and had to give up his dreams of becoming someone of a high status. Furthermore, his son, Nyowe, left Okonkwo to be a follower of the Christians which Okonkwo hated the most as they severed the clan’s oldest traditions and broke their society apart. This shows that despite everything Okonkwo did in order to achieve his goals in the future, all his progress disappeared in just a blink an eye.
The different people in the town of Umuofia, people were proud of their families, proud of their traditions and cultures, and proud of their titles. As seen through the eyes of Okonkwo, he is really eager to be successful in life, and tries to teach his son and daughter to be like him as well. When he goes into exile, his friend, Obierika, visits him and gives him money for his crops back in his homeland. These small symbols of gratitude and hardworking changed the historical perspective of people in Africa. Africans are usually stereotyped to be bad people, due to the slave trade in the past. Novels, texts, and speeches made by Englishmen always depicted Africans to be inferior as they lived in, what seemed like an impoverished continent. However, seen through this novel, African people have the same palette of emotions as anyone else: they feel the same things, think the same things, and yearn for the same things. Chinua Achebe truly showed a whole new perspective of African people, allowing a changed historical perspective of Africans, as well as African society.
Despite what other continents believe, even during this time period, Africans had an extremely complex society. There is a very prominent hierarchy in the society where Okonkwo lives in. This is evident in the Kola nut giving, as well as in the household when it is seen that Okonkwo has absolute power over his wives, and his children. There are traditions dating back to centuries, allowing them to prosper despite the limited resources. Okonkwo describes his experience in farming, and how important each step is, from observing the weather, to examining the yam seeds. Originally, African society seemed simple, if anything, unorganized, as from an English/European perspective, they fell into the clutches of the Europeans when they started colonizing Africa. After reading the novel, it changed the perspective of Africa historically since if anything, they had, while different than what most countries would call organized, a more complex way of life than any other country at the time.
Emotions of Africans during European colonization was a huge part of the novel that influenced the belief that Africans did not care that Europeans tried to spread Christianity in their land. When Europe started to build missionaries in order to convert as many Africans as possible to Christianity, it essentially separated the clan, and severed traditions. Most of the older generations were proud of their old traditions and the religion, however there were also many that were easily converted to Christianity, throwing away everything they were taught by their parents. The few that resisted could not take any action to rid the Europeans. Okonkwo, one of the people who resisted eventually committed suicide as he could not live in a clan where nobody respected the old ways. Originally, the perspective of Africa versus European colonization was that European had stronger military power so that they were able to conquer Africa. However, after reading the novel, it is seen that the minority of Africans did resist the new religion, and the emotions that were described in the novel helped put the European colonization process into perspective.