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Character Analysis of Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart is a novel written by Chinua Achebe that centers around a wealthy Nigerian man named Okonkwo who is a respected member of his community which is in Umofia. A character analysis of the individuals within Achebe's classic work of literature reveals many things regarding the tradtions, traits and lives of the Ibo people. Learn what Achebe is trying to tell with the characters in Things Fall Apart by having a research project written that analyzes the main character Okonkwo and others.

Although successful, Okonkwo is troubled by the reputation of his father, Unoka, an irresponsible man who died leaving debts behind. Okonkwo achieves wealth and respect because he has overcompensated for the sins of his father and the fear that he might follow in his footsteps. Okonkwo sees that masculinity is important to the people of his village and he feels that evidence of this masculinity is shown by his success in the fields and the wealth that flows from the hard work in his fields. He views his own son, Nwoye, as lazy and this leads him to worry that his son will be like his father. The worry about his son is exacerbated when he is given custody of another child, Ikemefuna, who shows much more potential than his own son. This child who arrives in the village brings with him tales from afar that show the differences of the village of Umofia and other villages in the area. The author demonstrates with the addition of this character that Africans are not a monolithic group, but the continent of Africa is full of diversity at this time.

Things Fall Apart Characters

The author reveals important traits of the Ibo culture as he introduces these important characters.

  1. The members of the family demonstrate a harmonious society with high expectations for ethical behavior before the missionaries arrive.
  2. The introduction of these important characters also shows the interrelationship of the families and the expectations that all will follow the rules dictated by the family and the tribe.
  3. The culture does not value the family wealth or family background as determining factors of social standing. Okonkwo has been able to work hard to achieve wealth although his father died in debt, and he is a respected member of the tribe in contrast to the lack of respect that the tribe had for his father.
  4. Unique characteristics of the culture include polygamy as Okonkwo has several wives and many children, but others do not play an important role like Ikemefuna and Nwoye.

Achebe shows the deep personal struggles of the people in the late nineteenth century to adhere to the laws and customs of their people and make an honest living. Okonkwo and the others in the novel repeat the traditional customs of drinking palm wine and eating kola nuts and demonstrate the strong feelings for the community that the people feel. These traditional customs knit the communities together to keep the peace in the area. The proverbs of the Ibo people that have been handed down through the generations show another thread that bind the community together. Achebe shows that the African people of the area are not the savages sometimes portrayed in literature from Western authors, but a people with rich although different customs and traditions of their own.

The attitude of the people toward their literature, rituals and traditions could only be accurately shown through fictional stories of their lives. Sociologists and historians might record these events and customs, but a realistic view is possible by looking at the emotional reactions of Okonkwo and other similar characters. His rage at the wife who left without cooking his dinner just to have her hair done would not be noted in a history or sociology text, but in this literary work the emotions of the characters are explained. The fact that he beats his wife during a week solemn to the community brings retribution from the religious leader. His fine of a goat and a hen is different than those that might be common now, but these have parallels in many different societies.

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