Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe

by

Karim Chandra

Themes
Themes are described as ideas that dominate a particular piece of literature. In almost all cases, pieces of literature will be centered a theme or a number of them.
The Complexity of the Igbo Society
Even before the coming of the Europeans, the Igbo appears to be an incredibly complex society. In his own words, Chinua Achebe reveals that there is a wide range of practices that make the Igbo people highly complex. In support of this theme, Achebe presents a wide range of societal issues such as trial processes and justice codes. Besides, the Igbo community has a lot of rituals such as family rituals, social rituals, and marriage rituals among others. There are customs that regulate food cultivation, harvesting and preparation processes. There are also religious teachings and practices as well as shared community leadership. Most interestingly, the community has a ladder that is available for every member to climb and achieve success.
Clash of Cultures
The clash of cultures is perhaps the most plausible reason that compelled Achebe to write Things Fall Apart. Both at individual and societal levels. The cultural misunderstanding cuts across the different levels of the community. The whites, through Reverend Smith, considers Africans as heathens. In the same vein, the Africans, through the Igbo, consider the missionaries and Christians as foolish. Achebe has exposed the misperceptions of Africans by the west and the misperceptions of the west by Africans. It is important to note that Achebe is writing Things Fall Apart after he has experienced both cultures, thus, may provide an objective assessment of the cultural clashes. Achebe is determined to prove that there is no problem with African culture and neither is there a problem with the western culture. Things Fall Apart, therefore, is an act of atonement with [his] past, the ritual return and homage of a prodigal son.
Destiny
According to the Igbo religious belief, a person’s chi or God, is responsible for their fate. There is nothing much that an individual can do to change or challenge their fate. It is the gods that determine the good and the bad things that happen to individuals in this society. However, this line of thought is not always true. As a famous Igbo proverb says, "When a man says yes, his chi says yes also." The proverb is a clear indication that there are many instances in which individuals are directly responsible for their fate. For example, Okonkwo works extremely hard and becomes successful. His farming activities dive him good yields and that has allowed him to overcome his chi. However, when Okonkwo accidently kills Ezeudu’s son, he curses his fate and now believes that it is fate, rather than freewill that rules his life.
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