The novel, “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, is a soft manifestation of how imperial forces recklessly penetrated into the wilderness of native Africa. The foreign powers relied not only upon their military might but also upon the use of religion as well as in subduing and conquering the centuries old civilization of Africa. The role of education, the masters imparted to the enslaved Africans, remains doubtful for it served more to the trainers than to the students of the continent. The story is based in Umuofia, a town comprising of nine villages of ancient Africa. The tragic fall of Africa and the disintegration of its clans is replicated with the depiction of Okonkwo and his tragic downfall. The hero of the novel is presented as a brave warrior. His life is sheer tragedy from beginning till the end.
Okonkwo, a “tall and huge” person with “very severe look” was “well known throughout the nine villages” of Umuofia. His entire career and gradual rise rested on his “solid personal achievements”. Okonkwo wishes to be known as exactly opposite to the nature of his father, Unoka, who was never happy when it came to wars. His father was, in fact, a coward and “could not bear the sight of blood”. Since his youthful days, Okonkwo has grown a craze for wars just to prove that he is not a coward like his father; probably he does this to avoid the what his father was upto. His father was a failure, so he would do his utmost to prove that he is not a failure. And indeed, he is one of the elders of the clan. Though he began very humbly, yet today he is widely respected and feared for his wealth, barns and bravery. He has three wives. Okonkwo has brought home five human heads so far and still he is not old. He wants to prove his bravery in war.
He belongs to Umuofi, known for its military might. But Umuofia “never went to war unless its case was clear and just and was accepted as such by its Oracle”. A man of another tribe had killed a woman of Umuofia. Okonkwo was sent as emissary of war to Mbaino and he “returned home with a lad of fifteen and a young virgin”. The elders decided that “the girl should go to Ogbuefi Udo to replace his murdered wife” while they decided to leave the boy, Ikemefuna, in the custody of Okonkwo till his fate was decided. Okonkwo took the boy to his house and there the boy almost of forgot his own family because the family of Okonkwo had got so close to him. Okonkwo himself came to like him. At couple of occasions, elders of the village asked Okonkwo not to get so close to the boy because it belongs to the clan.
Ultimately, Okonkwo began considering the boy his son while the boy had similar feelings towards Okonkwo. At that moment of life, the tribe demanded the boy back from Okonkwo for sacrificing according to the desire of the Oracle. Okonkwo, in deep association with the boy, did not want to separate the boy but fearing that the people may call him a coward went with the men and himself slayed the boy. Okonkwo did this just to prove how strong he is but his conscience never let him at peace. He could not sleep. After sometime of the boy’s murder, Okonkwo’ gun fired in a funeral and a boy was killed. As per the laws of the clan, Okonkwo had to leave the village for seven years. His house and all belongings were destroyed after he left.
Okonkwo reached his maternal uncle with his three wives and children. There he had to begin anew. This was very difficult for him. Okonkwo felt the pain of exile and repudiated the laws in his heart but could not utter a word. He wanted to go back to his clan where he was respected and revered. During seven year stay of Okonkwo, a lot changed in Umuofia and about it. The Europeans came and penetrated in the social, religious, economic and political life of the natives. They preached openly against the native faith and beliefs. Okonkwo felt like a caged tiger. He wanted his clans to retaliate, some retaliated but they could not do what Okonkwo wanted because English had guns and ammunition; therefore, open war with the Europeans meant suicide.
Okonkwo returned his village after seven years. Everything had changed. His boy, Nwoye, had converted to Christianity. Missionaries openly preached and became social with the people. The publicly argued against the gods of the locals. Okonkwo wanted an open war with the white men. One day, a native convert killed one of the egwugwu of Umuofia. The clan got angry and destroyed the building of the church. Next morning the commissioner of white men invited all the elders of Umuofia. They went there thinking it a routine matter. But he arrested them all. His subordinate staff humiliated the clan. Okonkwo could not bear that. When they were released, they held a public meeting to decide upon how to avenge their insults. During that meeting one of the assistants of the commissioner came and misbehaved with Okonkwo. This he could not tolerate. Hence, Oknokwo killed the messenger. People dispersed and Okoknwo knew that nobody will support him for having killed the messenger of the white men.
Later, the commissioner came with a regiment of armed men to arrest Okonkwo, he was informed that Okonkwo had committed suicide to avoid the embarrassment of being dragged to the court of justice.