I loved this book. Chinua Achebe writes a sad and melancholic tale about a man called Okonkwo in a small African tribal village called Umuofia. Okonkwo is a man feared and respected by everyone in his village and beyond. He is a wrestling champion and man who enjoys fame and respect because of his hard work. He is a self made man. His father was considered a looser because he did not work very hard to sustain his crops and did nothing else but play music and laze around. He died as an outcast.
The only thing Okonkwo fears is failure and being compared to his father. So he works hard, becomes prosperous and lives comfortably with his 3 wives and children.
But life is not fair to him. After working hard in his village to gain a title and a good life, he is exiled from his fatherland because he kills a boy by mistake. When European colonists come to his village and build a church and start converting the villagers into Christians, Okonkwo wants to take action, he wants to fight the Europeans and preserve his culture and religion and his gods. But no one else wants to fight. Okonkwo watches his son join the Europeans and turn into a Christian and he is in utter despair because he cannot do anything about it.
This book has a sad and tragic end.
What I liked about the book was the simple descriptions of the day to day life of the people in a tribal village. I enjoyed reading about how their lives revolved around the growing and harvesting of Yams, how their beliefs in their gods affected the men and women in the village and their unease and anger when Europeans come and build a church in the village.
I enjoyed reading about folk tales passed down from generation to generation.
Even though I like the book I would like to mention a few points here as I have heard a lot of criticism and bad reviews for this book.
‘Things fall apart’ has been termed as a literary masterpiece. But if you looking for outstanding language, this book is not for you. The language is as simple as it can get, which I think is the beauty of it. If you want to clear your prejudice that African villages are backward and primitive and you think reading this book will give you an insight into why they what they do, do NOT read this book. I thought the tribal customs and beliefs were down right against humanity and whatever way the author would have put it, I wouldn’t have believed otherwise. Would you approve of leaving new born twins in a jungle because twins are considered evil? Mutilating a dead infant’s body so that it isn’t born again? Out casting a man from his village and his loved ones because he has a disease?
If you are looking for a good plot and well rounded and lovable characters, again this book is not for you. I hated Okonkwo. He was a tyrant and he repeatedly beat his wives and kids. I couldn’t sympathize with him no matter what.
I couldn’t take sides with the European colonists either. Though they brought good things in the village, they brought law and order, I hated the fact that they thought their God was the greatest. Trying to undermine any religion is always wrong. Every religion has its good and bad points, what you can do is point out the bad points or the bad interpretations of it. Sorry, but I am against statements like, ‘There is no God except our God’. I believe God is one, whether he is in the form of Christ or Allah or Krishna, everyone is the same, there are just different names given by humans. I don’t want this to turn into a religious discussion, so I’ll stop.
All I can say is I loved this book. Read it if you want to live and experience a culture very different from your own. ‘Things fall apart’ is distinctively African.