Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian post-colonial writer, poet, professor, and critic, whose fame spread beyond the dark continent when he first introduced his compelling, magnum opus novel, “Things Fall Apart”. Written only two years before the British colonial left Nigeria — in 1958 — “Things Fall Apart” is an embodiment of pre- and post-colonial Nigeria. The title of the novel stems from W. B. Yeats’s poem, “The Second Coming”. Chinua Achebe died in 2013 at the age of 82.
The story revolves around Okonkwo, the protagonist of the novel, and his family that’s made up of three wives (His first wife — Nwoye’s mother — is unnamed, his second, Ekwefi, and his third, Ojiugo) and a total of ten children; however, only a few of them stand out as main characters in the novel.
Okonkwo is a self-made, hardworking man whose fame echoed through Umuofia, his native village, when he beat Amalinze the Cat, a famous wrestler. Thenceforth, Okonkwo became revered yet feared in the village. Unlike his father, Unoka, who was loafer (ne’er-do-well) inasmuch he was effeminate, Okonkwo loved to work and sow his lands; as a matter of fact, he hated his father for bringing shame to their name. After his father’s death, he gained the upper hand of his kinship.
Okonkwo is short-tempered and is always wearing an unrelenting severe face — and does not tolerate inertia; his affection or sympathy towards his family is hardly noticed. Still, albeit he is not a man of manners, he hides his emotions for fear that he would be seen unmanly, or would be labelled an effeminate, as his father was. The fear of failure depicted the image of his deceased father in his mind, and thus he thrived for fear of being akin to his father.
Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart, Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.