Things Fall Apart (chs 1-3)

15 Apr

In the first three chapters of the novel “Things Fall Apart” Achebe gives an insightful view on the protagonist – Okonkwo. He begins by describing his masculine appearance that is both intimidating and astonishing. Achebe describes in detail the fight that made Okonkwo famous in his village and the villages nearby, which immediately shows to the reader that Okonkwo was a leader by nature. Moreover, the description of the fight that Okonkwo won shows the cultural aspect of Umuofia, the village Okonkwo was from, which will be evident later on in the novel. From the first chapter Okonkwo is portrayed as a violent, strong and agressive character. Achebe describes his ill temper, by revealing details on how he often relied on physical power when he was not content with something. Okonkwo, as Achebe says “ruled his household with a heavy hand”. He held every member of his family in fear, as they knew that each of them would be beaten if they disobeyed Okonknwo even slightly. Through that experience in Okonkwo’s house, the author is showing how women and children were treated in that society and emphasizes the ultimate patriarchy that existed in the Umuofian society. Throughout the three first chapters Achebe, on several occasions, describes how hard working Okonkwo was. He is portrayed as a great farmer, who always has the best harvest and never stops working, even under complicated circumstances. Achebe also shows the hardships that Okonkwo underwent, struggling for the desired success. From a very difficult beginning, when his father left him no inheritance for a successful life, to the very poor harvests due to weather – Okonkwo survived all the obstacles on his way, which shows his determinant and strong character and his strong will to succeed.

The reader spots that Okonkwo was obsessed with the idea of succeeding and achieving the highest honors of the clan. He was firm in his will to achieve the so called “highest titles” of the clan and to become one of the most respected man in his society. He also had an obsession with the toughness in his character and believed that display of any sort of emotion, but anger and agression was not worthy of a true man. Again, this primarily shows the cultural aspect behind the society he lived in, but moreover, it shows the key fears of Okonkwo. The reader quickly understands where Okonkwo gained that kind of beliefs and obsession when Achebe starts describing his father. Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, was a man  of art and not showed no particular interest in farming like the other men of the clan. He was as the clan believed, the most unsuccessful man in Umuofia and gained no titles whatsoever. Unoka’s love of conversation and disgust of physical abuse tired and angered Okonkwo, and since he was a young child he wanted to be a complete opposite of his father. That is how the reader understands where the origin of Okonkwo’s violence and obsession with success originates.

Finally, in the first three chapters of the novel, Ikemefuna’s arrival is described. The boy was frightened and surprised to be taken away from his mother and to have to live in a completely new and different household. The arrival of Ikemefuna is very significant as it will have a tremendous effect later on in the novel. The mention of the priestess in the three chapters and such details as “obi” (hut) and kola-nut give an insightful view on Umuofia culture and enhances the reader’s understanding on the structure of the Umuofian society.

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