Accepting Change or Holding Onto Traditions – Dillema that Caused Tragedy in Achebe’s Novel Things Fall Apart

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Is change always positive or is it negative, and can it hurt societies? The Author of the book, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe exposes different reactions to people and change. Things Fall Apart is based in an Igbo village in Nigeria in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The story is based around a strong independent man named Okonkwo who works hard and holds a high power in his village, Umuofia. Okonkwo has troubles with his mind of being stronger than his dad, complications with his family, his village, and his gods. The Umofians religion, government, and their traditions hold the tribe together with their similar thinking and social connections, changing one of those key bases for the tribe could make things quite literally, fall apart. In part two of the book, changes start happening to the book. Okonkwo was forced to go to a different village, along with the introduction of a new religion to the village causes people to think differently and without the belief in their gods, most of the government power is lost.

The Umofians’ religion, government, and their traditions hold the tribe together because of the peoples social bonds. They all believe in the same gods and spirits which supports their similar thinking. Their form of government also keeps everyone inline so there are no trouble makers or outliers. The people of Umuofia live happily together by happiness. They enjoyed things together even if they may be negative like the large horde of locusts that invade their tribe. “Everyone was now about, talking excitedly and praying that the locusts should camp in Umuofia for the night.” – “Many people went out with baskets trying to catch them, but the elders counseled patience till nightfall.”(Achebe 56). All of the Umofians enjoyed the locusts because it’s a rare sight for them, sometimes even once in a lifetime. The locusts are a delicacy for the Umofians that made sure everyone was happy about the abundance of the bugs, Many people went out with baskets trying to catch them. The people were excited to capture the bugs and this group enjoyment brought the people together. The Umofians also have a form of government, jobs, and social ladder. Everyone of Okonkwo’s wifes children, after a week die. Then Okonkwo decides to call in a high class medicine man to try to fix the curse. “After the death of Ekwefi’s second child, Okonkwo had gone to the medicine man, who was also a diviner of the Afa Oracle, to inquire what was amiss.”(Achebe 77). The tribe of people have strong forms of jobs, religion, and social ladder. Achebe shows how all of these by the introduction of the high class medicine man. A medicine man is similar to a doctor before modern medicine was created. They are believed to have powers of healing for the people. The Umofians believe he has powers to heal and relieve curses, and is well respected due to the deeds he’s done before. The bond between the Medicine man and the people is strong which is crucial for their tribes success. Having these strong bonds between people supports the tribes success because they have trust and support each other. The Umofians government is well organized and has punishments too. They have a congress and judges called the Egwugwu and are able to speak to the gods. “The metal gong beat continuously now the flute, shrill and powerful floated on the chaos.

And then the egwugwu appeared. The women and children sent up a great shout and took to their heels. It was instinctive.”(Achebe 89). “As they spoke two other groups of people had replaced the first before the egwugwu and a great land case began.”(Achebe 94). The Egwugwu or powerful and feared, they are the judges of nine villages. The Egwugwu decide the punishment for people which makes the villages stronger together because its not chaos and everyone believes the same things. The Umofians bonds are strong due to their similar thinking and economic systems. They all believe in the same gods/goddesses, and laws.

In Part two and three of Things Fall Apart, many things changed the village and Okonkwo, Okonkwo was forced to go to a different village, and the introduction of a new religion to the village. These new elements in the community change the village, and not the good type of change. In the very end of part one, a large change happened that affects the outcome of the book. At a funeral, Okonkwo’s gun explodes and kills Ezeudu’s sixteen-year-old son, causing Okonkwo to switch villages for a large portion of time. “And then from the center of the delirious fury came a cry of agony and shouts of horror. It was as if a spell had been cast. All was silent. In the center of the crowd a boy lay in a pool of blood… “Okonkwo’s gun had exploded and a piece of iron had pierced the boys heart.” “The only course open to Okonkwo was to flee from the clan. It was a crime against the earth goddess.”(Achebe 124). Okonkwo was a major representative of the tribe and him having to leave will cause the tribe to fill a large hole in the structure. This happening changed the clan and Okonkwo. He moved to his mother’s kinsmen tribe. With the death of a 16 year old boy changed the plot of the book. In part two, it focuses on Okonkwo’s life in Mbanta which is hard for him, his wives, and his children. Umuofia is also discouraged due to such a high power in the clan’s actions and now challenges their belief. It is hard for Okonkwo to start his new life in Mbanta with his family, he’s having trouble working, fitting in, and accepting his past actions. “His life had been ruled by a great passion-to become one of the lords of the clan. That had been his life-spring. And he had all but achieved it.”(Achebe 131)

Okonkwo’s new life didn’t come easily, he had to work hard but this time is just to get by. Okonkwo changed from trying to be the lord of a strong wealthy clan to trying to get by with a village full of mostly strangers. He felt defeated without the enjoyment of work. In Mbanta, and the nearby villages, started to see christians popping up trying to convert the villagers to christianity. Mbanta surprisingly accepted the christians into the tribe and granted their wishes for land in the village. They gave the believers a cursed part of a forest expecting them all to die.“Let us give them a portion of the Evil Forest. “They boast about victory over death. Let us give them a real battlefield in which to show their victory.” They laughed and agreed,… The next morning the crazy men actually began to clear a part of the forest and to build their house. The inhabitants of Mbanta expected them to all be dead within four days. The first day passed and the second and third and fourth, and none of them died. Everyone was puzzled.”(Achebe 149). The christian surprisingly surviving the 4 days in the forest caused villagers to think about this new strong religion. This type of change affected Mbanta heavily due to the village having the same structure around their belief, similar to Umuofia. A change in religion could cause major changes in the village and the people within it. Villagers and outcasts started listening to the christians and going to church. Even Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, was seen there practicing his belief. Okonkwo was angered about this occurrence due to him strongly disapproved of the church and their beliefs. “One morning Okonkwo’s cousin, Amikwu, was passing by the church on his way from the neighboring village, when he saw Nwoye among the Christians.”(Achebe 151). “The Christians had grown in number and were now a small community of men, women, and children, self-assured and confident.”(Achebe 159). With the village slowly falling away into this new forgein belief things start to fall apart with this sudden change to the people. Chinua Achebe in part two is exposing the challenges of change to people, sudden change to a structural support of a society or building will cause chaos and people forced to choose sides to a disagreement. Achebe never fully exposed the outcome of change, if it’s positive or negative, but did show negative parts of it.

Can change destroy strong, and long lasting societies? Or is change always for the better? The Villages were greatly affected by the change. People were killed and buildings were burnt to the ground. The Igbo villages where structured strongly around their connection to the gods and that was changed by the introduction to the new religion. The people of the villages were split into two different groups which also ripped the village into two due the lack of the common thinking. Does Change always split societies, and societies survive after the change?


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