Essay Sample on Change and Tradition in "Things Fall Apart"

Published: 2023-08-01
Essay Sample on Change and Tradition in "Things Fall Apart"
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Community Things Fall Apart
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1078 words
9 min read

Author Chinua Achebe from Nigeria wrote the “Things Fall Apart” novel, which was published in 1958. The characters in the story engage in conflict, personal customs, and beliefs, and struggles between religion, culture, and family. The novel narrates the tragic fall of Okonkwo, the protagonist, and the culture of Igbo. Okonkwo is a powerful and respected leader in the Ibo tribe of Nigeria. Okonkwo earned respect after defeating Amalinze in a fighting competition. However, he is a dominating husband and father to his wives and children due to his controlling and insensitive nature. He later becomes extremely violent and does things without consulting other people. Things start to all apart when personal conflicts and beliefs conflict with the white missionaries’ customs. Chinua Achebe developed various ideas in “Things Fall Apart” novel that included the struggle between tradition and change, the effects of colonialism, masculinity, social disintegration, ambition, and a sense of justice. This essay explores the theme of change and tradition in “Things Fall Apart” novel.

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The Traditional Culture of Igbo Community

“Things Fall Apart” depicts the dispute between the traditional beliefs and customs of the Ibo tribe and the white colonial government in Nigeria. At the beginning of the novel, Chinua Achebe carefully portrays the changes that had been made by the white colonial government to the religious, political, and social institutions; thereby, affecting the traditional practices of indigenous Ibo individuals. The author narrates a sophisticated Nigerian culture comprised of a judicial system, a money structure, a government, and a religion. A reader encounters various forms of traditional structures in multiple chapters of the novel. For instance, chapter five portrays a typical traditional family system of the Igbo community, while chapter ten shows several ritual festivals and manifestations. Religious practices have a great impact on the political and moral activities to the people in authority. “The religion beliefs in Igbo community include worshipping the dead, cult of individual gods, and the great open divinities” ( para 10). The characters in “Things Fall Apart” are shaped by the moral codes and beliefs, which define the relationship between men and forces of the earth. Additionally, the “Igbo community believes there is a supernatural force that created everything on the universe” ( para 10). The supernatural force is God, and Igbo people referred to him as Chukwu. Diviners and oracles are species agents who transfer gods' messages to the public. The author states that the Ibo people had a strong belief in the gods' mysteriousness because some worshippers could sacrifice their sons.

The traditions of the Igbo are expressed through proper names, proverbs, and folktales. Chinua Achebe indicates the complexity of the Igbo language for direct translation. The author utilizes the Igbo words to insist the distinctive language and culture of the Ibo tribe and to create awareness of non-English concepts and sounds. The Igbo community uses their unique language to show their culture. Songs, folktales, and proverbs in “Things Fall Apart” convey and capture the beauty, cadences, and rhythm structures of Ibo language. The author uses folktales and proverbs to discuss the activities and behaviors of principal characters and portray the moral codes and ethics of the Ibo tribe.

The author uses the novel to disclose the lighter and more serious features of the Igbo men either in folk festivals or at home. Also, he used the story to provide an outline of the traditional life of the Igbo community through a description of the personal, private, and public lives of the characters. Achebe reveals an ordered and a civic community founded on families, elders, ancestors, and a hierarchy of gods. “Igbo community is an agricultural society, with a period of hard work, civil crisis, and frequent criminal activities”. The community has sophisticated but efficient methods of handling issues caused by adversity and prosperity.

The Struggle between Tradition and Change

"Things Fall Apart" focuses on the way reality and vision to transform impact the different characters in the novel. The question of whether to appreciate change over tradition usually involves individual status. For instance, “Okonkwo refuses the new religious and political rules because he regards them unmanly; hence, accepting and tolerating them will not be manly”. Also, “he refuses to accept cultural transformation because he is afraid of losing the privilege of his societal status”. Consequently, the community is torn between embracing or resisting transformation. The villagers have difficulties in determining the best method of adapting the reality caused by change. Most of the community members are happy due to the new techniques and opportunities brought by the white colonial missionaries. However, they fear that the European effect can eliminate the old methods of cooking, building, harvesting, and farming. The traditional means, which were once essential for surviving, have a high probability of being eliminated. Across the novel, the author indicates the way traditions are based on language and folk stories; thus, abandoning the Igbo language for English might eradicate the traditions.

Additionally, the novel discusses the struggle of transforming from tradition to modernization. Achebe used Okonkwo to reveal how some leaders refuse to change despite the benefits that come with change. For instance, “Okonkwo fails to accept the social order and new religion brought by the white colonial missionaries” ( para 11). Also, most of the public struggles to transform from their traditions to new religious and social changes. However, the community shows a sigh of transformation after Okonkwo killed a messenger. The silence from some local members indicated that they were ready to accept new changes. The community also fear losing some traditions reserved for particular celebrations. For instance, “the community celebrates the feast of new yam, which provides the tribe a chance to thank the goddess responsible for land fertility” ( para 11).

The author illustrates the change in the Igbo community when Okonkwo returns and finds complete changes that occurred during his absence. The community had changed since it was no longer seeking for guidance from the elder, solving clashes through war, and making sacrifices to gods to seek liberation. The transformed community was now praying to a supernatural power they could not see and discussed issues calmly among themselves. Okonkwo considered the transformation woman-like. Additionally, Okonkwo noticed the way missionaries had entirely transformed the community after the tribesmen allowed the remaining court messengers to flee when he killed one of the messengers.

Work Cited

"Themes and Construction: Things Fall Apart." EXPLORING Novels, Gale, 2003. Gale in Context: High School, Accessed 10 May. 2020.

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