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Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart Chronicles the life of Okonkwo

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  1. Introduction
  2. Culture and Achebe's Work
    1. Kinship
    2. Patriarchy
    3. Death
  3. Conclusion

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart chronicles the life of Okonkwo, a clansman and leader of the Umuofia clan in Nigeria. Okonkwo is granted considerable fortune in the early part of the novel, but is soon beset with problems beyond his control. In the end, Okonkwo's problems become so complex that Okonkwo choose to commit suicide as a means to atone for his sins. Even though suicide is one of the greatest sins that can be committed under tribal laws, it is symbolic of both Okonkwo's misfortune and his reflection on the way in which the nature of man has changed.While the specific context of Okonkwo's life is quite compelling overall, what is perhaps most compelling are the events that take place in the context of the novel. For many laymen reading the text for the first time, the events that take place in the novel appear to be somewhat odd. For instance, at one point in the novel, Okonkwo's youngest wife Ojiugo leaves the house to have her hair braided before preparing dinner (Achebe, 29). In response to this action, Okonkwo severely beats his youngest wife (26). While these actions may seem quite odd to the reader, when they are placed in the context of the culture in which they took place, they can be more easily understood.

[...] Achebe's protagonist Okonkwo faces innumerable challenges during the novel, each of which becomes more difficult for Okonkwo to reconcile. When this basic story outside of culture is revealed, the true meaning of the novel can be garnered. As such, the application of culture to the novel merely demonstrates that regardless of the context in which human suffering and struggle takes place, it can be interpreted and understood by others. Hence, while an analysis of culture clearly helps the reader to reconcile many of the idiosyncrasies that challenge Western stereotypes and conceptions, it is evident that the basic story of one man's struggle to accept the limitations of human nature, is a story that can be understood in almost any context. [...]

[...] Thus, when the Umuofia clan makes the decision that the young man?Ikemefuna?who has become an integral part of Okonkwo's family over three years, must be killed, Okonkwo has no choice but to go along with the decision even though he believes in his heart that killing Ikemefuna is wrong. ?Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak? (Achebe, 61). Not surprisingly, the issue of kinship is one that also flows though the development of religious and spiritual beliefs that are used in the clan. [...]

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