Things Fall Apart: Uniqueness vs. Nationality
Of the many themes that appear in Chinua Achebe’s Things Break down, individuality versus nationality ends up being a main subject as the story progresses and establishes. With the intrusion and colonization of the European missionaries, Okonkwo’s nationality and contributions to society are called into question. Achebe describes the idea of citizenship over uniqueness by showing that society is the precursor to individuality. Analyzing the life of the protagonist, Okonkwo, before and after his resistance exhibits this essential idea in Things Fall Apart.
Without society, there would be no uniqueness. Okonkwo’s qualities consist of praise and credibility, which his tribe provides him for tossing the Feline. Achebe describes Okonkwo’s reputation, stating, “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His popularity rested on strong individual achievements” (Chapter 1). While he may have achieved these acts, society discovered that these actions made him worthwhile of popularity and eventually formed Okonkwo into the person he is. Nevertheless, their culture not only develops respect and honor.
The Ibo culture acts a source of customizeds and criticism for its constituents. For example, in a discussion about other villages, Okonkwo and Obreika’s older brother analyze opposing custom-mades and criticize them since it is not how they generally are taught to trade. They discuss, “All their custom-mades are upside-down. They do not decide bride-price as we do, with sticks. They bargain and negotiate as if they were purchasing a goat or cow in the market. That is extremely bad.” (Chapter 8) This quote exhibits the prejudice that the society they reside in produces.
This idea of superiority to others later takes a role in Okonkwo’s life as he visits other cultures and finds their custom-mades, and even prior to he withstood the changes in his culture. Okonkwo’s own traditions and customizeds shape the manner in which he acts both before and after his resistance to change. When taking a look at Okonkwo’s life before he withstood society’s expectations, not just is he more successful, but likewise he is considerably better. Before his fight with culture, he was thought about popular, strong, and effective.
Okonkwo’s family was under his control, as the culture expected of him, which allowed him to have less disputes and issues in his life. At this time, his own customizeds carried more value than his own personal requirements which led to a much better life for him. He was able to be a part of society and have unity. However, as soon as he steps away from this life, his life breaks down. When taking a look at his life before this resistance, it is clear to see that life was better when he belonged of the culture and when he conformed to the expectations of society.
However, when Okonkwo retaliate back versus society, there are dire consequences. In his first act of defiance, Okonkwo strikes down his adopted kid, Ikemefuna, killing him. Even though the senior citizens instruct him not to do so, or even take part in the killing, Okonkwo fulfills the repercussions of his action with severe regret and anxiety. While this lasts for weeks, Okonkwo’s next act of defiance triggers far more severe consequences. He is sent into exile, turning him into what the reverse of what he wanted to end up being, a disgrace like Unoka.
His objectives of not being his daddy goes to ruins as he further caters for his personal requirements. Nevertheless, even when returning back to the society from which he was banished, his personal feelings still get in the way. When angered at “the white guy’s power”, Okonkwo “drew his machete … Okonkwo’s machete descended twice and the male’s head lay beside his uniformed body” (Chapter 24) Okonkwo’s rage towards society gets in the way of the conformity that he requires. Killing the messenger, Okonkwo contradicts his standard customizeds and the new customs that emerge from colonization.
Additionally, in Okonkwo’s last and last stand versus conformity is fatal, actually. In Umofian culture, it is explained, “It is an abomination for a guy to take his own life. It is an offense versus the Earth, and a male who devotes it will not be buried by his clansmen. His body is evil, and just complete strangers might touch it.” (Chapter 25) Okonkwo does just this in order to fulfill his own requirements, removing the hardships that he goes through after resisting society. His expression of individuality leads to his death and the destruction of the respect and track record that he worked for.
Through Okonkwo’s life prior to and after his resistance to society, Achebe explains the value of citizenship over individuality. As Okonkwo’s actions work as the reverse of his customs, his own life becomes worse. However, if he were to have followed his traditions, he would not have committed suicide as he did and kept the life he originally led. Therefore, when examining the dispute in between citizenship and individuality, citizenship triumphs as the precursor to uniqueness since of its access to a better life.