Things Break Down: Individuality vs. Citizenship
Of the numerous themes that appear in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, uniqueness versus citizenship becomes a main subject as the story advances and establishes. With the intrusion and colonization of the European missionaries, Okonkwo’s nationality and contributions to society are cast doubt on. Achebe describes the idea of nationality over uniqueness by showing that society is the precursor to uniqueness. Examining the life of the protagonist, Okonkwo, before and after his resistance exemplifies this essential idea in Things Break down.
Without society, there would be no uniqueness. Okonkwo’s qualities include praise and track record, which his tribe offers him for tossing the Feline. Achebe describes Okonkwo’s credibility, mentioning, “Okonkwo was popular throughout the 9 villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid individual achievements” (Chapter 1). While he might have achieved these acts, society noticed that these actions made him worthwhile of fame and ultimately formed Okonkwo into the person he is. However, their culture not only produces respect and honor.
The Ibo culture acts a source of custom-mades 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 usually are taught to trade. They describe, “All their customs are upside-down. They do not choose bride-price as we do, with sticks. They bargain and haggle as if they were buying a goat or cow in the market. That is extremely bad.” (Chapter 8) This quote exhibits the bias that the society they reside in produces.
This concept of supremacy to others later on takes a function in Okonkwo’s life as he checks out other cultures and finds their custom-mades, and even prior to he withstood the changes in his culture. Okonkwo’s own traditions and customs shape the manner in which he acts both prior to and after his resistance to alter. When taking a look at Okonkwo’s life before he resisted society’s expectations, not just is he more successful, however likewise he is significantly happier. Prior to his confrontation with culture, he was thought about well known, strong, and powerful.
Okonkwo’s household was under his control, as the culture expected of him, which enabled him to have less disputes and concerns in his life. At this time, his own custom-mades carried more value than his own personal needs which led to a better life for him. He was able to be a part of society and have unity. Nevertheless, when he steps far 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 complied with the expectations of society.
Nevertheless, when Okonkwo retaliate back against society, there are alarming effects. In his first act of defiance, Okonkwo strikes down his adopted son, Ikemefuna, eliminating him. Despite the fact that the seniors instruct him not to do so, or perhaps take part in the killing, Okonkwo satisfies the repercussions of his action with extreme guilt and depression. While this lasts for weeks, Okonkwo’s next act of defiance causes much more severe consequences. He is sent into exile, turning him into what the opposite of what he wished to end up being, a disgrace like Unoka.
His objectives of not being his dad goes to ruins as he even more caters for his individual needs. However, even when returning back to the society from which he was banished, his personal emotions still obstruct. When angered at “the white male’s power”, Okonkwo “drew his machete … Okonkwo’s machete came down twice and the guy’s head lay beside his uniformed body” (Chapter 24) Okonkwo’s rage towards society obstructs of the conformity that he requires. Killing the messenger, Okonkwo contradicts his standard custom-mades and the brand-new custom-mades that emerge from colonization.
Additionally, in Okonkwo’s last and final stand versus conformity is fatal, actually. In Umofian culture, it is discussed, “It is an abomination for a male to take his own life. It is an offense versus the Earth, and a guy 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 uniqueness causes his death and the damage of the respect and reputation that he worked for.
Through Okonkwo’s life before and after his resistance to society, Achebe discusses the value of nationality over individuality. As Okonkwo’s actions work as the reverse of his traditions, his own life gets worse. However, if he were to have actually followed his customs, he would not have actually committed suicide as he did and kept the life he originally led. For that reason, when taking a look at the argument in between nationality and individuality, nationality victories as the precursor to individuality since of its access to a better life.