Things Fall Apart

The Culmination of Tragedy: Tradition and Change in Things Fall Apart College

Tradition and change are as much at war as the people are in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. The events that define this war are centered on and around the main character, Okonkwo, who finds himself unable to adapt to the changes taking place in his society. His refusal to change, contrasted with his society’s willingness to change, is both a personal and broader tragedy. The theme of tradition versus change in Things Fall Apart is used to highlight the tragedy of both Okonkwo’s isolation and his society’s dissipation.

Tradition is integral to the society in which Things Fall Apart is set. Okonkwo lives with his family in the Umuofia clan, one of nine collective villages that uphold the same set of beliefs and traditions. Their lives revolve around their belief in ancestral spirits, called egwugwu, and multiple gods that demand sacrifices and strict rituals in exchange for their guidance and prosperity. Many customs define everyday life, such as the kola nut and palm-wine which are presented when receiving company, and the language spoken that conveys thoughtfulness and respect. An interaction involving Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, and a man whom he owed money to depicts the importance of...

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