In spite, the fact that it is not demonstrated in this part, the setting of Things Fall Apart is in the late 1800s and mid-1900s, just before the beginning of the British invasion of Nigeria. The novel creates a distinction between the African culture and the Western culture. In this section, Achebe demonstrate the following characteristics of Igbo culture:
- Legends and traditions (the fight with a spirit of the wild by the founder of their village)
- Symbols of honor (titles)
- Indicators of wealth (yams, cowries)
- Marriage customs (more than one wife)
- The reckoning of time (markets, a week of four days)
- Social rituals (kola nuts, alligator pepper, chalk, small talk, and proverbs)
- Music, entertainment, food, and drink
The first chapter discusses Okonkwo's achievements that established his importance in the Igbo society. The features alone give the perception of Okonkwo's character and personality. Driving himself toward the achievement of his tribe and acknowledgment. Okonkwo is endeavoring to make up for the disgrace that was left by his late father, Unoka. Basically, Okonkwo shows characteristics of masculinity in Igbo society.
Having been educated and familiarized to the Western writing and its customary structures, Achebe structures Things Fall Apart in the heritage of a Greek tragedy, with the story based on Okonkwo, the tragic hero. Aristotle characterized tragic hero as a character who is unmatched and respectable, one who shows incredible strength and determination, however, is consumed due to a natural individual character weakness.
A notable social marker of Igbo society is presented in this chapter — a unique system that is characterized by acquisition of titles. All through the book, titles are points of reference by which individuals from Igbo society regularly compare themselves. These titles are not given by the people in power or the authorities, but rather they are obtained by the person who can pay for them. As a man amasses riches, he may gain extra acknowledgment and respect by "taking a title." He may likewise buy titles for male individuals from his family. To obtain the title, the purchase will pay huge sums of money as initiation fees to the individuals who already have the title.