Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, a review
Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe, is a story taking place in Nigeria prior to colonization by the British. The story follows the life of Okonkwo, an Ibo tribesman who is driven throughout the span of his life by equal measures of hatred and fear. These emotions were engendered by his indolent, lay about debtor of a father. As a result Okonkwo grew up starving with practically no possessions to call his own and scorned for the being the son of such a useless man.
This treatment brought about a great change within Okonkwo. As a young man he became very aggressive, meeting any insult with violence. Shortly afterward he gained notoriety by successfully throwing the reigning Ibo champion, Amalinze the Cat, in a wrestling match the likes of which no spectator had seen before.
He became a share cropper, being paid in cowry shells and food for hours and hours of backbreaking labor farming yams and tubers on other, wealthier tribesmen’s land. His strength and stamina were the stuff of legend to his peers. Eventually he accrued enough money to buy land of his own, building himself a large compound and taking three wives.
He was a successful man, a respected member of the tribe; he fathered many children, and lived well. But he was never happy. He beat his children and wives mercilessly whenever he saw an ounce of what he perceived to be weakness or laziness.
Achebe’s writing style is a familiar, endearing one to the characters he portrays. It is also informative, lending one a look into a world and way of living disappeared when Nigeria was colonized.
Despite the alien nature of Okonkwo’s environment and lifestyle, Chinua Achebe is masterful in his portrayal of the similarities and experiences which all peoples of the world share. In his lifetime Okonkwo had to deal with tribal warfare, drought, and disease, the continuous loss of children to illness and accident, as well as the infuriating ravages of age. Okonkwo lived his life in fear of his own weaknesses, raging against them at every turn. He lived in fear of his own humanity and was kind enough to take the reader along with him every step of the way.
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