Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Contributed by Jack Shields
Motifs are devices or structures that are used by artists or authors to help in the development of a theme.
Chi is an individual’s personal god, whose merit is determined by the individual’s fortune. Along these lines, Okonkwo’s tragic fate can be understood as the result of a problematic chi, a recurring thought that Okonkwo has. For the clan believes, a “man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi.” In Chapter 4 however, we learn that according to an Igbo proverb, that “when a man says yes his chi says yes also.” According to this, individuals will their own destinies. Thus, depending upon our interpretation of chi, Okonkwo seems either more or less responsible for his own tragic death. Okonkwo himself shifts between these poles: when things are going well for him, he perceives himself as master and maker of his own destiny; when things go badly, however, he automatically disavows responsibility and asks why he should be so ill-fated.
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