The novel is set in the late nineteenth century when European powers were vying for a piece of Africa’s territories. It depicts a time of transformation when western culture entered West Africa and Christianity was introduced. Following the introduction of the English Bible, the time saw the dissemination of the English language among the locals. Okonkwo, the protagonist, is a faithful peasant, husband to three wives, father of eight children, and courageous warrior who worries that abandoning native customs would jeopardize his social standing. The wealthy man of Umuofia clan is keen to avoid misfortunes that befell his father who was continually borrowing and feared violence. The other pronounced characters in the book are Mr. Brown (who represents the European Christian missionaries), Nwoye and Enzima.
The fundamental themes in the novel include colonialism, civilization and, language and cultural variations. The story portrays the assumptions and reality of how reforms would affect characters in the book. The protagonist resists Christianity and the new political system of dialogue because he fears that they could squash his reputation. The uncivilized society was built to praise and reward violent and arrogant men, warriors who did not fear blood. The new development that teaches of tolerance and dialogue in solving issues will mean that Okonkwo’s traits become valueless. The villagers find themselves in a dilemma to choose between long-held traditions and western civilization that brought efficient methods of cooking, harvesting, and building that the whites introduced. The wave of western civilization was massive made most of the tasks easier to perform.
The story depicts how colonial powers took control of African countries. Okonkwo’s friend, Obierika marvels at the level of wisdom the white man used to penetrate and capture the attention of the clan member. The Whiteman came peaceably and quietly as opposed to the gun and they could not resist. By the time the Igbo community noted how much they were under the colonial rule, it was difficult to reverse. Obierika laments that it became impossible to convince all their people to stop the involvement of the whites. The colonizers enticed the natives with goods to capture their attention. Using the character Mr. Brown, Achebe illustrates the patterns used by European powers during the scramble for Africa.
The other major theme is the interrelation between culture and language. The writer manages to show that a society’s perception has a firm foundation on the language. The abandonment of Igbo for the English language opened up the community for the European traditions. The population was keen to reap maximum benefits of civilization, and with more English knowledge they began copying the foreign way of life. Achebe also succeeds in portraying the importance and riches local Igbo language. Men of Umuofia for instance, laugh at how Mr. Brown’s translator says some words.
The novel is fascinating to read and is enriched with Igbo proverbs, songs, and tales to illustrate the prowess of African languages which were considered inferior to English. The writer conveys cadences and rhythms to capture the attention of colonial novelist that failed to appreciate the Igbo language. Things Fall Apart is designed for the native West African to enjoy their wealth of wisdom and culture and serve to represent African languages as reputable to the doubters in the western world.