Essay on Things Fall Apart

Last Updated: April 27, 2024

Essay on Things Fall Apart

“Things Fall Apart,” a novel by Chinua Achebe, is a profound narrative that explores the theme of change and its impact on individuals and societies. This essay will delve into the intricacies of the novel, examining the characters, themes, and the broader implications of change as depicted by Achebe. It aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding for essay writing competitions.

Things Fall Apart

Set in the late 19th century, in the Igbo village of Umuofia in Nigeria, “Things Fall Apart” narrates the story of Okonkwo, a respected warrior and leader. The novel unfolds against the backdrop of European colonialism and Christian missionary activities in Africa. Achebe masterfully portrays the clash between traditional Igbo society and the new values introduced by the Europeans.

Character Analysis

  1. Okonkwo: A complex protagonist, Okonkwo is driven by a fear of weakness and failure. His tragic flaw is his inflexibility and refusal to adapt to change, which ultimately leads to his downfall.
  2. Nwoye: Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, symbolizes the younger generation, torn between traditional values and the new ways introduced by the missionaries.
  3. Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith: These characters represent the two facets of colonialism. Mr. Brown adopts a more understanding approach towards the Igbo culture, whereas Mr. Smith is rigid and uncompromising.

Themes Explored

  1. Clash of Cultures: A central theme of the novel is the conflict between the traditional Igbo society and the encroaching European influences, leading to a cultural dissonance.
  2. Change and Tradition: Achebe explores how change is inevitable and how rigid adherence to tradition can be detrimental.
  3. Colonialism and Its Effects: The novel critiques colonialism, highlighting how it disrupts the social, religious, and political fabric of indigenous societies.
  4. Masculinity and Power: Through Okonkwo’s character, Achebe examines the concepts of masculinity and power within Igbo society.

The Art of Storytelling

Achebe’s storytelling is steeped in the oral traditions of the Igbo people. His use of proverbs and folk tales within the narrative not only enriches the story but also serves as a conduit for cultural transmission.

Symbolism in the Novel

  • The Title: “Things Fall Apart” is symbolic of the disruption of Igbo society and Okonkwo’s life.
  • Yams: In the novel, yams symbolize wealth, masculinity, and success.
  • Fire: Okonkwo is often compared to fire, symbolizing his fiery nature and eventual self-destruction.

The Role of Women

In Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart,” the role of women is multifaceted and deeply rooted in the Igbo society portrayed in the book. Here are key aspects of the role of women in the novel:

  • Household Management: Women in the Igbo society are primarily responsible for managing their households. They oversee domestic chores, including cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing. They ensure the smooth functioning of their families’ daily lives.
  • Agricultural Contributions: Women play a significant role in farming activities, such as planting and harvesting crops like yams and cassava. Their agricultural contributions are essential to the community’s sustenance.
  • Economic Activities: Some women engage in economic activities, such as trading, to support their families and contribute to the community’s prosperity. Notable characters like Ezinma’s mother, Ekwefi, exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit of Igbo women.
  • Religious and Cultural Roles: Women are involved in religious and cultural practices, serving as priestesses, diviners, and participants in rituals. The Oracle of the Hills and Caves, Agbala, is a revered female figure in the society.
  • Motherhood and Childbearing: Motherhood is highly valued in Igbo culture, and women are expected to bear children to ensure the continuity of their lineage. Fertility and childbirth are sources of pride for women.
  • Marriage and Family Dynamics: Marriage is a crucial institution in Igbo society, and women often have multiple roles within it. They may be wives, mothers, and daughters, and their relationships with their husbands and in-laws can be complex.
  • Resistance and Resilience: While the novel reflects the patriarchal nature of the society, it also highlights the resilience and strength of Igbo women. Characters like Okonkwo’s wives and Ezinma defy traditional gender roles and expectations.
  • Influence on Decision-Making: Although men hold formal leadership roles in the community, women often exert indirect influence on decision-making through their roles as advisors and by participating in communal discussions.
  • Impact of Colonialism: The arrival of European colonialists disrupts traditional Igbo gender roles and power dynamics. The influence of Christianity and Western education challenges women’s traditional roles and changes the societal landscape.
  • Evolving Gender Roles: As the novel progresses, it becomes evident that gender roles are not static. Some women, like Nwoye’s mother, adapt to changing circumstances and take on new roles in response to colonialism.

The Tragic End

The novel’s tragic end, with Okonkwo’s suicide, signifies the ultimate collapse of the old order and the character’s inability to reconcile with the new realities.

Critical Analysis and Thinking

When critically analyzing “Things Fall Apart,” consider:

  1. Historical Context: Understanding the historical backdrop of colonial Africa is crucial for interpreting the novel’s themes.
  2. Achebe’s Perspective: Consider Achebe’s critique of colonial narratives and his attempt to provide an African perspective.
  3. Literary Devices: Analyze Achebe’s use of language, imagery, and symbolism to convey deeper meanings.

Contemporary Relevance

The novel’s exploration of change, identity, and cultural collision remains relevant today. It prompts reflection on current issues of globalization, cultural homogenization, and the preservation of cultural identity.


In conclusion, “Things Fall Apart” is a compelling narrative that provides profound insights into the human condition, the inevitability of change, and the complexities of cultural interactions. It is not just a story about the fall of a man or a culture; it is a universal tale of resilience, identity, and the enduring spirit of humanity. For students, analyzing this novel presents an opportunity to engage with complex themes and enhance their understanding of literature and history.

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