The culture of the Umuofia society before the colonial
infiltration, may be hard to understand but we are forced by
Achebe to realize it has traditions and customs that make it
work. Although, looking at it from our Judaeo-Christian point of
view we may be appalled by some of their practices. We also have
to realize that they have strengths.
Things Fall apart is the idea of balance and
interdependence, earth and sky, individual and community, man and
woman or different perspectives on the same situation. The
central image of this balance is contained in the Ibo concept of
"chi," which occurs throughout the novel. A persons "chi" is
their destiny, his inner self, "you wouldn't challenge your "chi"
to a wrestling match," as did Okonkwo when he assisted in the
killing of Ikemefuna, whom he loved and who called him father.
Okonkwo sins not only against the earth goddess, protector of
family relations, but also against his inner most feelings or his
"chi." Any bad luck that occurs, people of this culture would
say that you have a bad "chi."
Okonkwo's destiny is marked by bad luck, one reason may be
that he is so driven by the fear of resembling his father that he
struggles to repress part of his personality with predictably
This was a society where a man was judged by his own
achievement and not that of his fathers. Yams were the primary
crop of Umuofia. A sign of manliness was if you could farm yams
to feed your family. Okonkwo is respected because of his hard
The complex patterns of Umuofia's economic and social
customs materialize throughout this novel as we see Okonkwo
compelled to rid himself of any similarities that his father had.
Unoka had no titles, was lazy and when he died was greatly in
Some may wonder how a society like the Ibo's functioned, how
they enforce its laws with no kings, no organized police force,
and no standing army. Indeed this is something our "modern"
culture could study. These things were accomplished through the
functions of the masked spirits.
The Egwugwu, represents the village's highest spiritual and
judicial authority. The masked spirits are believed to represent
their ancestors. This supports the myth "The land of the living
was not far removed from the domain of the ancestors." There was
a coming and
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