I do not have the appropriate historical knowledge to critique this book on African culture or the accuracy of the British invasion into Africa. Although I am certain that how it was presented in the book is very much how it happened. One culture came to the country of another and decided that it's way of seeing the world was correct and everyone else was ignorant. As such people needed to be reeducated and punished.
The story is about Okonkwo who wants to overcome the disgrace of having a lazy father by becoming a strong warrior and a good provider. He is not the most lovable of characters. He does not speak much and he is very concrete in his own views. He strives to be a strong leader in his community and he works very hard to get there.
Even within his own culture, Okonkwo is not a flexible character. He has little love for his oldest son. He helps with the killing of his adopted son because he needs to be strong. He works hard and expects everyone in his family to do the same. He even expected his four-year-old son to understand a conversation about being a man.
Yet he is also a very real character. When his only daughter of his second wife is taken he circles the village looking for her and then stands outside the cave waiting for her exit. Although, I still have no idea what that was about, except to help show his devotion to his tradition that he would allow his favorite child to be taken and just stand and wait for the outcome. When he helps kill his adopted son he is sick by the action. When he goes to his mother's tribe he is grateful for their aid even while he regrets the necessity of being there. He is not exactly a likable character, but he is a very real character.
It is because he is so strong in the tradition of his ancestors that it is guaranteed that there would be conflict with the invaders. Okonkwo can do nothing except continue to fight for the ways of Africa. When he fights and kills one of the white men his people do not back him up. He knows that he is fighting alone, and as his uncle had said prior, a man is nothing without his kin. He has no choice but to keep to his tradition and hang himself. By keeping with his tradition he also kills his tradition. Things Fall Apart is a very moving book. It is well written and seems a bit simplistic, yet the story that it tells is extremely powerful. It is not something that I would normally have read, which is something that I need to remedy in my own reading habits. I am extremely glad that I picked up this book.
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