Modern World


Things Fall Apart


For Okonkwo, “thing fall apart” because he cannot change his ways, and because he will not allow himself to show weakness. He is so imbedded in the traditions of his clan, the Umuofia, that it is impossible for him to change to the modern ways of the British. When the British come and people start converting to their ways, which eventually is a cause of his suicide, is when things fall apart for Okonkwo.


Okonkwo fears looking weak like his father. His father, Unoka, was a coward by the standards of the clan. He feared the sight of blood, never took a title, and died of an dreadful illness. He left heavy debts when he died. Since childhood, Okonkwo was ashamed of his father. When he was a child, another boy called Unoka “agbala”. The word means "woman" as well as a man who has not taken a title. To come out from his father’s shadow, he worked hard and eventually became a wealthy citizen in the Umuofia clan, able to support three wives, and their children. Though his strange relationship with his father, effects his relationship now with Nwoye.


Okonkwo is extremely chauvinist in his attitude. However, despite his chauvinism, his favorite child is his daughter, Ezinma. Of all his children, Ezinma understands her father best. When she comforts him during his depression over killing Ikemefuna, she does not do so directly. She brings him food and urges him to eat instead. Okonkwo fears showing affection or sorrow because he thinks it makes him look weak. Looking weak is the determining fear that rules Okonkwo\'s life. Therefore, he is extremely harsh in his dealings with his family, especially with his son, Nwoye. However, Okonkwo seems to secretly desire affectionate attachment with his sons. He voices this desire through his wish that Ezinma was a son. He says that she has the "right spirit." However, it is not because she exhibits desirable masculine traits. It is their bond of sympathy and understanding that he values.


Okonkwo and Ikemefuna love one another as if they were father and son. He is a good older brother to Nwoye. Ikemefuna also eases the tension in Okonkwo\'s relationship with Nwoye. He could help Okonkwo overcome his fear of showing affection for his family members. However, Okonkwo fears looking weak, so he takes part in Ikemefuna\'s death. Okonkwo fails to overcome his fear, and he is wracked with guilt over killing his surrogate son. His inability to overcome this fear damages his relationship with Nwoye beyond repair as well as Nwoye\'s relationship with Ibo religious and cultural tradition. Which later causes him to convert to the Christian ways.


Okonkwo\'s desire to react violently to the Christian church is not completely motivated by a desire to preserve his clan\'s cultural traditions. He had wanted to make a big splash with his return to his village. However, the church has changed his village so that his return does not receive the attention he wanted. His humiliation in the jail is also a motivation for wanting revenge. However, wars of revenge are not just wars. The Ibo religious beliefs forbid such a war. Okonkwo does not wait for his clansmen to decide their course of action before he kills the court messenger. He acts rashly without thinking. Therefore Unoka\'s words regarding the bitterness of failing alone come to have real significance in Okonkwo\'s life. He values his personal success and status over the survival of the community, and he fails alone. He commits suicide, and despite his great success and prestige, he dies in ignominy like his titleless, penniless father.


In the Umuofia clan, suicide is the lowest form of death imaginable. It comes with no honor. The clan is forced to look down on their once respected and wealthy clansman. They must bury him “like a dog”, which shows how things have really fallen apart for Okankwo. After all he tried, after all he did, he ended up just like his father, and his clan has lost their traditional values.