Themes in Things Fall Apart
In Chinua Achebe’s acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart, there are various themes which make up the complexity and richness of the story. Although it is a work of fiction, Achebe touches upon contemporary issues involving Africa and colonialism. Colonialism is defined as political control over another country. Often this means exploiting its resources and tampering with the precious culture of the people. Post- colonial Africa is still trying to recover, by trying to adapt a mindset of what it truly means to be an African.
Achebe explores these issues through his own African roots nd portrays what he believes is the true essence of African culture. One major theme of the novel is language. Language is the most effective and prominently used tool for communicating to other people. It is clear that speech is used in a different form depending on who is addressed. For example, when addressing an Igbo god or an ancestral spirit, one uses a formal tone of speech. This is to show a sign of respect.
Similarly, when people of the tribe approach and speak to Okonkwo, they use a similar tone. They respect Okonkwo for his many feats including beating Amalinze the cat. For this reason, they reflect their feeling in their speech. A significant speech barrier occurred between the Christian Missionaires. In order to communicate with the people they were required to use an interpretor. An interpretor does not always deliver the message precisely, causing severe lines of miscommunication.
Eventually, these unclear communication lines could lead to ignorance among the two peoples. Another form of communication in the tribe are the folktales and proverbs. This is the Igbo peoples way of communicating their values to the younger generations. Language plays a very important role in their society, and the loss of their language is a tremendous loss of their culture. Another important theme in the novel is the theme of gender. Gender roles are central to Igbo society. To understand Igbo worldview it is essential to understand the cultural gender roles.
Even the crops are separated by male and female; in example, the yam is said to be a male crop. Males are expected to be masculine in every sense of the word. They should be physically strong and equally as violent. They are not to show emotion because that is considered a sign of weakness. For instance, Okonkwo rarely shows affection towards his children because that would be a weak sign of emotion. Due to this fact, men in the Igbo culture are assigned the role of warriors and hunters.
The men do all of the hard labor and interact largely within the public sphere. On the other hand, women are viewed as weak because they do not physically compare to men. In a similar way, woman display emotions which supposedly diminishes their strength. However, women dominate the private sphere. Their role is to raise the family, clean the home, cook, etc. It is a bit ironic that the mportant Job of raising the children is given to the “weaker” sex; Achebe touches upon this fact.
The character of Okonkwo takes the idealology of masculinity too far. He suffers from patrophobia because he does not want to be like his father who was lazy and weak. For this reason he is cold towards his children and eventually kills his adoptive son Nwoye. Achebe makes it clear that these actions are not acceptable within the community. There must always be a balance between feminine and Additionally, the theme of religion is one prominently discussed within the novel. The Igbo people have a religion that is based upon the earth.
Their entire culture revolves around agriculture and the mystery of nature and the seasons; therefore, they worship gods and goddesses which will help them in this dominating aspect of their lives. The people are fearful that if they commit a sin against their god that they will be punished by way of crop elimination or natural disaster. Also, considering the central role of family, ancestral spirits are extremely important to the Igbo people. It is imperative that the people do not forget their ancestors, for they believe that if they give thanks to them, then they in spirit will reward them in return.
The ancestral spirits are respected to the point that Judges in trials (masked elders) represent the ancestors who were wise and Just in decision making. During colonialism, Christian missionaries pushed the idea of a singular monolithic God. This idea was very foreign to the people and seemed irrevelvent to Igbo lifestyle. Some Igbo people accepted this new idea, however others remained firm in their beliefs. This shows the Igbo peoples open-mindedness when it comes to the spiritual world. To demean their spiritual nature would be to degrade their culture.