Things Fall Apart Book Review - The Sociological Perspective

In the beginning of the novel, Okonkwo is portrayed as a leader who is respected and influential to his community and to his community members. However, as the novel progresses and Okonkwo develops as a character, readers quickly come to the realization that life, no matter what lifestyle an individual grew up in, can change in an instant. The events that occur throughout the course of the plot and stand out as significantly life changing include; the clash of cultures when missionaries arrive in Okonkwo’s village and when the different villages Okonkwo visits have different ethnic values. Both of these events encompass the cultural and ethnic issues that today’s society experiences. When the missionaries arrive in Okonkwo’s village, the missionaries and villagers have clashing cultures and while reading the novel, Achebe makes that very known. Achebe makes this known in numerous ways, the main way being through descriptive social interactions. For example, when there are different elements of American culture such as “iron horses,” later discovered to be bicycles, the villagers responded with pushback and they believed that “the strange man would break their clan and spread destruction among them [...] and so they killed the white man and tied his iron horse to their sacred tree because it looked as though it would run away to call the man’s friends.” This not only displays signs of pushback but signs of violence as well. This social interaction between the villagers and the missionaries emphasizes the fact that social issues will always exist in all countries and at all times. As Things Fall Apart was written and set in the time period of 1959, this allows readers to understand these issues existed in the mid-nineteenth century. Although this novel is fiction, not true, Achebe was clearly inspired by some actions that were taking place at the time and events that occured around that time as well.

Similarly to the cultural differences they encountered, when the missionaries entered the villages, they had different ethnic values and beliefs that the villagers did. Some of their different ethnic values and beliefs include religion. Their differences in religion can be displayed through this quote, “All the Gods you have named are not Gods at all. They are Gods of deceit who tell you to kill your fellows and destroy innocent children. There is only one God and he has the earth, the sky, you and me and all of us.” This displays that the missionaries are being ethnocentric by saying this and trying to convert the villagers to Christianity. Their differences in religious beliefs can also be displayed by the quote, “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” This allows individuals to fully grasp just how in depth their differences are. The villagers want nothing to do with the missionaries ideas, thoughts, values or beliefs and, in return, the missionaries want nothing to do with the villagers local forms of religion. The missionaries sole purpose in their journey is to convert as many people to Christianity as they could. However, most of the elder villagers, who had been practicing their beliefs the longest, wanted nothing to do with this and were set in their ways, never going to budge on their religious standings.

As Chinua Achebe describes, displays and analyses the cultural and ethnic issues Okonkwo’s society faces, readers are able to see how these issues still relate to modern times. These issues will always be prominent in society because societal issues like this will never completely disappear. They will last, although they may deptet slightly every once in a while, they will always come back. I believe that this novel was able to truly bring modern society into the novel by way of character development and even individual interactions the characters had with one another. If these things did not occur, readers would not have been able to completely understand the internal, as well as external, struggles the characters - especially Okonkwo - faced throughout the entirety of the novel. On a personal note, I believe that the issue that is most controversial and problematic is cultural issues. The reason I say this is because there can be numerous ethnic issues embedded into cultural issues. This allows for the cultural issues to escalate more quickly than that of the ethnic issues. In order to minimize these issues, individuals need to learn to get along with one another and communicate their opinions. In addition to this, individuals must also learn to be open-minded and not completely block out others opinions and ideas, even if they do not completely mesh with their own. 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe clearly educates readers on the fact that issues such as cultural and ethnic issues in society today, and those almost sixty years old, will never be completely resolved. Despite this fact, readers also come to the conclusion that these issues can be minimized when handled the right way. While reading this novel, I learned that not all individuals you come across in life will have the same exact ideals, beliefs and values as you but if you work together and communicate your opinions to them in a clear, concise manner, then there is a potential for great things to be accomplished. Additionally, I learned that the novel taught me, as well as other readers, that, despite the previously listed, you should never be afraid to voice your opinion. When someone does not voice their opinion, there can be dowfalls that result. When opinions are not voiced, important things may go unnoticed as well. In conclusion, although there are a multitude of options individuals can take in order to minimize cultural and ethnic issues, they will always exist. Just because they will always exist does not mean there are time where there are barely any, it just means there are time periods that go through more cultural and ethical issues than others.