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The Dangers Of Change: Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe

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Turning and turning in the widening gyre.

The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things

fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy

is loosed upon the world

This is an excerpt from the Poem "The Second Coming", which is the basis for the novel "Things Fall Apart". This title is significant to the many themes that are explored throughout the story. I feel that the story is broken into three different themes in order to arrive at the main theme. The themes of tradition, social appearance and belonging, and fear and anger, are blended in such a way as to bring to light the main theme of the story. This idea is that though throughout life one can train themselves to think that they have absolute control over all things in their lives if they will it to be so, they really don't. The author shows the reality that through these ideas, we brainwash ourselves to believe that if we master these things and gain control over them, life as we know it will always be the same. The danger of thinking in this fashion is that in doing so you never prepare yourself for change, and if you are not prepared for change everything in your life can fall apart. The conflict among these issues shows that though we may have momentary control of ourselves and or family and even our culture, we do not have complete control over change, it is inevitable.

The story is set within the Ibo tribe of Umuofia, which is one of the nine villages that combine to make one large clan in Nigeria. These tribes are ones that hold courage, strength, tradition and customs extremely high. The theme of tradition is examined by

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showing that they are a prideful people, who rely solely on the will of "their gods" to direct their paths in life, which in turn brings them great strength and prosperity. This is

evident through a dialogue that takes place in the text detailing what happens when a member of the tribe disobeys a law made by the gods, "You are not a stranger in Umuofia. You know as well as I do that our forefathers ordained that before we plant any crops in the earth we should observe a week in which a man does not say a harsh word to his neighbor. We live in peace with our fellows to honor our great goddess of the earth, without whose blessing our crops will not grow. You have committed a great evil. The evil you have done can ruin the whole clan. The earth goddess whom you have insulted may refuse to give us her increase, and we shall all perish. (Achebe, 1959, p.30)

This theme of tradition is further explored by showing how continuously consulting the gods leads them on a devastating journey where they wage an internal and external war between what they know as the norm and a new strange presence that comes among them. A time comes when their land, their lives and ultimately, their traditions are invaded by colonialism and Christianity. With this invasion comes great conflict and confusion amongst their people. The village is faced with the hard decision to either accept the change, which they believe would show weakness and disobedience of the gods, or to continue to resist, and stay true to their beliefs and traditions.

The story is brought to life through the trials and tribulations of the main character, Okonkwo. This character is also the medium for understanding how social appearance and belonging can consume a person to a point where fear and anger become a strong part of their character. Okonkwo's social appearance and level of belonging is

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measured by how he feels he is being viewed in the eyes of his people. He is described as a true warrior who holds high levels of respect within his village. He has won fame as

the greatest wrestler in the nine villages, is a wealthy farmer, and rules his household with an iron-hand. Though he holds these honors of respect from his people it does not come without a price. The fee for his prestige is taken from his inability or non-desire to have compassion, and show love or sympathy to anyone. These emotions are useless to him, and would only hinder him with weakness. This is where the author establishes the conflicting relationship between strength and prestige vs. fear and anger. The overall factor that nourishes this philosophy of Okonkwo's is his overwhelming anger felt toward his father and how he was looked upon in the village, and his fear that he will be as is father was. Early in the story it is made very clear that Okonkwo's father was a man who, "was lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow" (Achebe, 1959, p.4). It also states, "But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of was not external but lay deep within him. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father" (Achebe, 1959, p. 13). With that being said it is evident that anything that is showed as "weakness" would surely be the demise of Okonkwo, in his eyes and the eyes of his people.

Most of the story revolves around the elements of social appearance, belonging and fear and anger together. The author did an excellent job of intertwining these ideas together in order to show how in the life of the main character one element can not exist without the other. In order for him to have a high level of social appearance he needs to

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have a strong, angry, no-nonsense way about himself. In contrast his need to belong consumes him with fear, because he is unable or unwilling show love or compassion to

anyone, for he will be looked upon as weak.



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