The Role of Tradition and Culture in "Things Fall Apart"

Tradition and culture, two aspects that make a person unique, what would happen to that person if they stopped believing their own tradition and culture? Chinua Achebe the author of Things Fall Apart (1953), is a very traditional man who feels that his roots and all of Africa’s roots are what makes Africans special. Throughout the book, Achebe describes the traditions of the Ibo people, and when the colonists came, Achebe describes how many of the Ibo people lost their traditions and a sense of who they really were. However, in the novel Okonkwo knew who he was, he was a self-made, well-respected member of the Umuofia clan, a hard worker, and a material provider, but his weakness was fear of femininity. In the Ibo culture, when a person dies at the middle age (youthful death), even if it was accident, suicide, venereal disease etc, it will be explained via spiritual cause. In this case, the person may have committed abomination or the parents and even the community where he belongs to may have committed sins, which attracted the wrath of the gods. In another explanation still connected to spiritual cause, it may likely be that an enemy by the corner has instigated the cause of the death spiritually.

Also, in this culture, when an elderly person dies and the person is still economically, physically and psychologically active, anything that causes the death must have come from spiritual cause. In this situation, it may have been because of the evil the person has done (nemesis) which people know or did not know about or an enemy somewhere who is not happy with the person. When an elderly man dies who is economically, physically and psychologically inactive, the ancestors have called him to rest. More importantly, if the person failed to die after some years of outliving his economic, physical generally, information about factors surrounding death in this part of the Ibo culture, is very poor among the masses. This is because of the partially or non-functional health ministry in different parts of the country. Among other things, it is the responsibility of the health ministry enlighten the public about the realities of death as a natural phenomenon, however, in the presence of corruption and mediocrity among the health workers, it is difficult for them to duly carry out their responsibilities on this aspect. Although individuals may read and know about things like death; Nigeria has not grown to such a level of people understanding things like death objectively and approaches it as such.and psychological viability, the family or people around will suspect him of belonging to witchcraft that may have extended his life so that he will continue to bewitch others. Psychologically, when somebody dies the family members and loved ones try to console themselves by narrowing the cause of death to a particular suspect or group of suspects. In this situation, the family members and loved ones will mark a particular family or individual as the suspected enemy and by so doing create a ground for potential conflict which may explode in future.

Furthermore, In the Ibo traditional culture, superstitious belief has overtaken the proper knowledge about factors surrounding death and life expectancy. This of course has led to the situation of many illicit activities leading people to their untimely grave while the individuals and groups are chasing after shadows and causing unnecessary problems in the name of avenging the dead. Lack of knowledge about the socio-economic and health factors remain the unseen factor among the Ibo people of Nigerian, which continue to threaten the improvement of life expectancy among the population and not the spiritual enemies based on their culture or religion.

According to, Things Fall Apart, “Okonkwo, was not afraid of war. He was a man of action, a man of war. Unlike his father, he could stand the look of blood. In Umuofia’s latest war he was the first to bring home a human head”. Okonkwo, unlike his father, has no fear of violence, but actually revels in it. Fearlessness in war is a highly respected quality in Umuofia. Okonkwo proved he was a man by going to war, which was what his father could not do. Furthermore, Okonkwo was afraid of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. Even as a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title. And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion – to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness. The Paradox here is that despite all of Okonkwo’s showy manliness, he is ruled by fear, which in my opinion is also a sign of weakness; and goes without saying that no man is perfect; in as much as he hated everything his father did, he also was as fearful as his father ( like father like son, you may say).

In Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is living proof of Aristotle's statement. Although he is arguably the most powerful man in Umuofia, His personal flaws of fear of failure and uncontrollable anger do not allow his true greatness as a human being. As per the author of “Things Fall Apart”, Okonkwo is one of the most powerful men in the Ibo tribe. In this tribe, he is both feared and honored. This is evident by this quote, 'Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond... He brought honor to his tribe by throwing Amalinze the Cat...'. This suggests that in Okonkwo's society, power is attained by making a name for yourself in any way possible, even if that means fighting and wrestling to get your fame. Although honor is a good thing, when people have to fight to gain it, it becomes an object of less adoration. Okonkwo's 'prosperity was visible in his household... his own hut stood behind the only gate in the red walls. Each of his three wives had her own hut... long stacks of yams stood out prosperously in the barn... Okonkwo offers prayers on behalf of himself, his three wives, and eight children.' Okonkwo has also worked and tended to his crops in a very zealous fashion, and drives everyone around him to work as hard as he does. Because of this, he earns his place as one of Umuofia's most powerful men. In many cultures, a big family is a source of pride. Although Okonkwo is not always pleased by his children and wives, it also brings him a source of pride to have three wives and eight children. Large families mean that the head of the family is able to support all of them. Okonkwo's devotion to his crops and family gives to him the respect that any father and husband deserve, and in his culture, being able to fight and kill as well gives him even more influence and power.

Okonkwo's wild resentment is the most conspicuous defect that wards off him from genuine significance. In spite of the fact that his outrage has served him well in his life, eventually, it crushes his lifestyle. Okonkwo is extremely harsh on his child; for instance, when Nwoye catches that Ikemefuna was to be 'reclaimed to his town, he burst into tears... Okonkwo beat him vigorously.' Okonkwo attempts to impart his own perspectives on the most proficient method to live as a man to his child, and to Okonkwo, crying is all around womanly, thus Nwoye is rebuffed for it. Okonkwo's failure to control his outrage inevitably pushes his child far from him as opposed to showing him what is correct and what's up. It makes Nwoye need to join what Okonkwo needs to wreck. Okonkwo spies the District Commissioner and as he 'trembles with abhor, incapable of absolute a word... instantly Okonkwo drew his cleaver. The courier hunkered to keep away from the blow. It was pointless. Okonkwo's cleaver slid twice and the man's head lay close to his formally dressed body.' Okonkwo's loathe and outrage in this circumstance, in the end, drives him to his demise. Despite the fact that he loathes and outrage is defended here, plainly he can't control himself, and over the top resentment accomplishes more mischief than anything. Abhor and outrage is a ruinous method to carry on with your life. Despite the fact that regard and power are picked up, it is increasingly out of dread. In the event that the general population around since the possibility of progress, they will conflict with their ruler with expectations of progress. Outrage sires dread sires control. The power that is effectively detracted from change. Since Okonkwo was not ready to understand that, his life was relinquishing. Humanity has a wide range of appearances. In spite of the fact that dread and outrage are responses that all men have, whenever left unchecked, they will devour each of the ones has worked for and at last decimate everything that one holds dear. As I would see it, before moves are made, much thought ought to be taken to ensure that individual shortcoming does not meddle with one's judgment in the public eye.

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo was once viewed as the best warrior alive. Things change and he ends it all before the end of the story. It is a disrespect to end it all in his clan. For his entire life, Okonkwo dreaded kicking the bucket like his dad without distinctions at his entombment. In spite of the fact that Okonkwo had carried on with his life as a dedicated man who was an extextraordinary pioneer and warrior in his clan, Okonkwo passes on in a shameful way. Achebe's message all through the novel is that change can be pulverizing. Genuinely, the novel 'delineates clashes and pressures inside Ibo society just as changes presented by pilgrim guideline and Christianity.' What Achebe is attempting to state is that change itself can cause strife in Ibo society.

Attempting to make progress in the conventional world, Okonkwo, the hero, is a capable however firm Ibo. He fears to get to resemble his lethargic dad who bites the dust without any titles and without respect. Regardless of his diligent work and assurance to get every one of the titles he can accomplish, Okonkwo can't stop the progressions that are going on in his town. He can't get his innate men to battle the European Christian white men who have come in to take control and change his town customs. The District Commissioner who speaks to the white Europeans comes in to humanize Okonkwo and his inborn individuals. Incidentally, the District Commissioner compounds the situation, he accepts he is carrying harmony and human progress to the Ibo individuals, however actually, he has efficiently pulverized numerous parts of Ibo life. With a sentiment of misery, Okonkwo surrenders and hangs himself. He ends it all since he can't manage the progressions that the Christian white men are making in his town. While the white man from Europe came in to edify the Ibo clan, he didn't succeed. In reality, the narrative of Okonkwo confirms that Europe did not acquaint human progress with the savages.

In the novel, Nwoye, Okonkwo’s oldest son, struggles in the shadow of his powerful, successful, and demanding father. His interests are different from Okonkwo’s and resemble more closely those of Unoka, his grandfather. As a result, he undergoes many beatings from his father. The arrival of Ikemefuna, a young boy from another village, does great things for Nwoye. Ikemefuna moves into his house becomes like an older brother, and teaches him how to be more masculine. Okonkwo is very pleased with the turn of events, and Nwoye even starts to win his grudging approval. With the harsh murder of Ikemefuna, Nwoye goes back to being his old, soft self. His reluctance to accept Okonkwo’s masculine values turns into embitterment toward him and his ways.

The death of Ogbuefi Ezeudu is announced. At Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s large and elaborate funeral, the men beat drums and fire their guns. Tragedy occurs when Okonkwo’s gun accidentally explodes and kills Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s sixteen-year-old son. Because killing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess, Okonkwo must take his family into exile for seven years in order to atone. He gathers his most valuable belongings and takes his family to his mother’s village, Mbanta. Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s men burn Okonkwo’s buildings and kill his animals to cleanse the village of his grave sin. Okonkwo works hard on his new farm but with less enthusiasm than he had the first time around. He has toiled all his life because he wanted to become one of the lords of the clan, but now that possibility is gone. This was the next step in his downfall.

A few years into Okonkwo’s exile, his friend Obierika comes to tell him about what Nwoye is up to. He reports that when missionaries came to the village Nwoye was very drawn towards them, and eventually joined their forces. Although Okonkwo curses and disowns Nwoye, Nwoye appears to have found peace at last in leaving the oppressive atmosphere of his father’s tyranny. Nwoye’s entire life conflict was because of his father’s extreme zealousness in being masculine and scorning any emotion. Losing his son to the whites and their church was another big step in his almost complete now destruction.

During the late nineteenth century. One of the strategies utilized to demolish Ibo society was the penetration of Christian teachers who presented new thoughts and undermined the neighborhood arrangement of convictions. The final surrender of Umuofia, symbolized by the suicide of its extraordinary warrior, Okonkwo, was gone before by an undeniably forceful test to its nearby religion sacredness. Although there have been various investigations of this novel since its initial publication 50 years back, the job of Christianity and its encounter with local convictions have not been adequately talked about with regards to colonialist appropriation. Which has tackled this issue, however for the most part from a social, social or chronicled point of view that emphasizes Ibo social and religious qualities, without breaking down their dialectical relationship with those of the Christian colonialists and the way Achebe constructs that relationship in his fiction. This isn't amazing in the event that we remember that although the novel appears to be basic, as Solomon O. Iyasere (1974) has written, 'it is misleadingly so. After looking into it further, we see that it is provocatively complex, interweaving huge topics' the meaning is that it’s too complex to understand. The point of this article, at that point, is to investigate the role of religion in pioneer control by concentrating on three stages in the relationship between the Christian Church and the Ibo clan whose end is followed in Achebe's tale: the evangelists' endeavors to verify the compassion of the destitute and minimized; the expanding bellicosity – fundamentally with respect to new converts – towards the neighborhood divine beings; and the defilement of the veiled spirits,which implied the compelling finish of the group's primary socio-otherworldly organization.

Henceforth, the study of religious change among the Ibo during the colonial era has suffered from two major problems. The first is on the part of scholars of the nature and strength of Ibo traditional religion. The second is over dependence on the archives of the missionaries in Europe to the neglect of oral evidence in the field. The result of all this is that the degree of religious change among the Ibo during the period of colonial rule has not been satisfactorily demonstrated. After many years of encounter with the Ibo religion, Christianity spread rapidly. This breakthrough has been mistaken for intensive Christianization. Using oral sources, for the most part, this article wishes to the dominant note in the religious change among the Ibo was adaptation and accommodation. It also contends that during the period under consideration traditional religion still ruled the minds of most Ibo to a greater extent than has generally been realized, notwithstanding outward manifestations to the contrary. But what was Ibo traditional religion all about?

In an Ibo Traditional Religion All scholars of Ibo studies would probably agree that Ibo traditional religion was a way of life which involved reciprocal rights and obligations between the material world of the Ibo and the immaterial world of the spirits, the objective is to maintain harmony between both worlds, ensure peace and prosperity for the people and the survival of their lineages through time. Horton's two-tier structure of a 'basic' African cosmology 1 is inadequate for Ibo land, and a few years ago this author put forward the view that Ibo religion was founded on three pillars, the Supreme Being, divinities, and their ancestors. This religious change is connected to colonialism and Christianity because it told us the reason why that change happened in the novel.

Taking everything into account, in Things Fall Apart there were various sides of how expansionism can influence individuals as observed in the novel. Monetarily and socially, expansionism carried with it expanded open doors given to the general population. This made them increasingly prosperous and opened roads for individuals to make more benefits. As far as religion, culture and customary practices, imperialism totally changed the general population's practices, which thus prompted other individuals revolting. It is all things considered, significant not to lose one's feeling of character during the time spent change and still keep up the way of life and customs while grasping advancement.

Also, the downfall of Ibo society was ascribed to both outer and inward impact of the white men. This situation is like the grievous fall of the legend that is an aftereffect of joining both awful defects and the less controllable powers that neutralize his will. Clearly, success in the Ibo society could be guaranteed just if the white men did not touch base to their property. In any case, the white men's impact alone was not adequate to demolish the Ibo society. As contended by Okwonko, on the off chance that they stood firm to safeguard their conventions, they could have ensured their contemporary way of life. Perhaps, receiving such a guard method could have brought about postponing the inevitable result; all things considered, there was little to be finished by the Ibo if the evangelists presented military fortification. The locals are just practically identical to the grievous legend in the part of convictions whose impact straightforwardly estranged the general public individuals and caused a noteworthy float among the Ibo. In spite of the possibility that the convictions and traditions are apparent in Ibo's way of life, the nonsensical base can't withstand the white man's numbness as shown by the survival of the congregation in the Evil Forest. Ironically the convictions, the nearness of social structure, just as the advancement of religion is the sign of both extravagances of Ibo culture and its defeat.

Works Cited

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  6. Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York; Anchor Books, Random House Inc. 1959.
  7. 'In Things Fall Apart, why does Okonkwo commit suicide and what is the final message of this work? ' eNotes Editorial,28Nov.2012, Accessed 10 July 2019.
  8. Yasere, Solomon O. 1974. “Narrative Techniques in Things Fall Apart.” NewLetters 40 (3): 73-93.
  9. 'Things Fall Apart Summary English Literature Essay.' 11 2018. All Answers Ltd. 07 2019 . on Mon, 08 Jul 2019 19:37:48 UTC All use subject to C. N. Ubah
14 May 2021
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