Things Fall Apart


Chinua Achebe

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Themes and Colors
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Things Fall Apart, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Tradition vs. Change

The novel's title is a quote from a poem by the Irish poet W.B. Yeats called "The Second Coming": "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” Much of the novel centers on Umuofia traditions of marriage, burial, and harvest. Achebe's decision to use a third-person narrator instead of writing the book from Okonkwo's perspective demonstrates just how central the idea of tradition is to the book, since…

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Fate vs. Free Will

From the start, Okonkwo's will seems to drive his ascent in Umuofia society. He rises from being the son of a debtor to being one of the leaders of the clan, thanks to his hard work and aggression. He becomes known for his wrestling prowess, and we are told that this cannot be attributed to luck: “At the most one could say that his chi or personal god was good. But the Ibo people…

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Language is a vital part of Umuofia society. Strong orators like Ogbuefi Ezeugo are celebrated and given honorable burials. Because clan meetings are so important for organization and decision-making, these speakers play an important role for society. Storytelling is also a form of education for the clan—whether they're masculine war stories or feminine fables, storytelling defines different roles for clan members and moves them to action. Even western religion takes hold because of story and…

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Okonkwo dedicates himself to being as masculine as possible, and through his rise to become a powerful man of his tribe and subsequent fall both within the tribe and in the eyes of his son Nwoye, the novel explores the idea of masculinity. Okonkwo believes in traditional gender roles, and it pains him that his son Nwoye is not more aggressive like he is. As a result, it's revealing that he expresses the wish…

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Religion is the main arena where both cultural differences and similarities play out at the end of the novel. Religion represents order in both societies, but they manifest differently. While religion in Umuofia society is based on agriculture, religion is seen as education in the white man's world. As a result, the gods in Umuofia society are more fearsome, since clan members are at the mercy of natural cycles for their livelihood. Mr. Brown

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