Things Fall Apart Analysis

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Updated: Apr 20, 2021
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Things Fall Apart is a novel written by Chinua Achebe that shows the conflicts in Nigeria during the nineteenth century. During this time, missionaries from Great Britain arrived in Nigeria. In this novel, the main character, Okonkwo, resists changes brought about by the British missionaries. Okonkwo’s close friend, Obierika, shares the same dislike towards the change, but isn’t as willing to fight them. Instead, Obierika, along with the tribe, is forced to accept the changes to their culture. Their attitude to change is an example of their many differences. It shows that although Okonkwo and Obierika are close friends, they contrast in personalities, family relations, and attitudes towards change.

Okonkwo is described as impulsive while Obierika is more reasonable and does not act on impulse. Okonkwo tends to argue and his first solution to problems within the tribe is war. Okonkwo is said to “walk as if he was going to pounce on somebody. And he did pounce on people quite often” (13). In contrast, Obierika tends to analyze the situation before coming to a conclusion. Obierika is usually advising Okonkwo not to act rashly. Both Okonkwo and Obierika criticize each other’s actions. When Okonkwo was told Ikemefuna was to die, he went along even though it would hurt Ikemefuna, because he wanted to appear manly. On the other hand, Obierika didn’t go and Okonkwo accused him of being “unmanly”. At this accusation, Obierika responded with “if the Oracle said that my son must die, I would neither dispute it nor be the one to do it” (70). This shows their different viewpoints while managing, in their own way, to respect the other’s decision, even if they don’t accept it.

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In the novel, Okonkwo and Obierika are seen with their families. Okonkwo tended to show minimum emotion towards his family. He “ruled his household with a heavy hand” and punished them as he saw fit (22). However, Okonkwo still cared for his family and especially favored Ezinma. He went to such lengths as to follow the Oracle to the shrine to make sure Ezinma was safe. On the other hand, Obierika showed more affection towards his family than Okonkwo did. He showed pride in his son, who was a prodigious wrestler, and made sure his daughter was married to a good husband. They both cared for their family, but they have different ways to express their emotions.

As the story progresses, the British missionaries arrive in Nigeria. Immediately upon their arrival, Okonkwo and Obierika share different viewpoints. They both disliked the change occurring to the Ibo culture; however, Obierika viewed the missionaries’ culture with an open mind while Okonkwo perceived the missionaries as “insane.” Okonkwo wanted to fight off the missionaries, but Obierika said it was too late, “Our own people…have joined the hands of the stranger…They have put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (164). Towards the end, Okonkwo kills a white messenger and realized that Obierika was right: his people weren’t going to fight. In the end, Okonkwo’s inability to change causes him to commit suicide.

Both Okonkwo and Obierika share many differences and similarities in various aspects. They differ in personality: Okonkwo is impulsive while Obierika tends to be more reasonable. They both criticize each other and yet, are respectful, despite their different viewpoints. They also contrast in the emotion shown towards their families. Okonkwo is harsher and less affectionate than Obierika; however, they both care about their family members, even if Okonkwo rarely shows it. Finally, they show different attitudes toward change. They both dislike the change that occurred within their clan, but Okonkwo is more narrow-minded and cannot accept the change in the Ibo culture, whereas Obierika is more open-minded and views the changes, at first, in a curious way; However, he concludes that the Ibo culture had started to break and fall apart. These two friends have as many differences as they have similarities. Their differences and similarities created the balance within their friendship.  

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Things Fall Apart Analysis. (2021, Apr 20). Retrieved from