I originally “read” this book when I was in high school for my World History AP class. I use quotes there because I read the literal text of this book, but I didn’t actually try to immerse myself in the writing, characters or story. I thought that it was time to fix that especially since this one of the books that I was required to read that wasn’t written by a white guy.
Okwonko is a famed man in his Igbo village. He is strong. He works hard. He provides for his family. He is resolute in his beliefs. At times, this means that his family and his community are safe and have what they need to survive. Other times, this means that Okwonko lashes out and lets his volatile anger take over. When Okownko accidentally kills a member of the community during a ceremony, he is exiled to his mother’s village where he holds none of the status and power that he previously commanded. When his exile is finished, he returns to a community changed. This soon includes white missionaries arriving which threatens to upend everything that Okwonko still holds on to.
Throughout Things Fall Apart, Okwonko has these lovely moments of self-awareness that demonstrate his ability to change, to be softer, to be more understanding. Each time these moments present themselves, Okwonko tends to fall back on to tradition and expectation. Ultimately, this creates a rigidity in Okwonko that he is unable to reconcile with a rapidly changing world around him. He sees no place for himself in the world, as he is unable to quickly adapt to it.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about Things Fall Apart is the language that Achibe uses. Throughout the book, Achibe weaves in poetic aphorisms into his writing. Most of the time this occurs during dialogue when one character is giving advice or counsel to another, but it also occurred elsewhere. These aphorisms served to fully immerse me in the Igbo community and the character’s way of thinking.