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Table of Contents
The setting of the novel is in an African community known as the Igbo in the village of Umuofia, locatedin the eastern part of Nigeria. The writer is able to create a sympathetic and complex image of a customary rural community in Africa. The novel unfolds life of the villagers before the colonial era; the impact of the British colonizers and theChristian missionaries after their invasion that was around the end of the nineteenth century. The writer is able to bring out various themes through the use of different traits of many characters. The novel revolvesaround Okonkwo’s life, who is not only a well-known wrestling title holder, but also a renowned leader of Umuofia village. The most evident themes are change, culture, tradition,language, fear;symbols like locusts and fire have also been used to represent conceptual views and ideas. The writer tries to dispel the belief that Africans had primitiveway of life and customs. The Igbo society which is governed bythe strict traditions is gradually transformedthrough the westernization and this marks its downfall (Chinua, 1996).
The Igbo society is depicted as havingthe immense social institutions which are mainly human sacrifice, wrestling and suicide. Their culture has firm customs that insist on fairness and justice. Decisions are made through the consensus after a meeting held by the council of elders. Leadership is attained by anyone. The novel mainly focuses on Okonkwo, who endeavors to maintain the customs and traditions of his society. The writer has usedhim to show the fall of his own society. He is illustrated as being embarrassed of his effeminate, extravagant and lazy father, Unoka. His expertise in wrestling and hard work earns him a noble status and a lot of wealth. He is terrified of being weak like his father was, and therefore, behaves rashly bringing a lot of trouble upon himself.His many flaws make him make many mistakes that result into his dreadful death at the end of the novel. Okonkwo’s life can be divided into three main parts. In the first part, the writer traces his failures and successes in the clan. The second part is when he is exiled after shooting at his wife and hitting clans elder. In accordance with the laws of the clan, all his property should be ruined, and he should leave his homestead for seven years. He runs away to his mother’s homeland. In the third part upon his comeback, he finds that the missionaries have eroded the cultures of his society. He tries to stop the actions of these foreigners who have invaded his land, but none of his tribesmen supports him. He realizes he is a loner and commits suicide which is considered as a disgrace in the society(Bernth, 2003).
The writer has used various symbols to represent the abstract thoughts. He depicts locusts that descend upon Igbo in terms that anticipate the coming of the white people, who will eventuallyexploit their resources. The language used to portray the locusts symbolicallyshows their status. Repetition of certain phrases emphasizes the rapidubiquitousexistence of these insects and hints on how the arrival of the settlers takes the people of Igbo by surprise. Furthermore, these locusts are veryheavy to an extent of breaking tree branches; this symbolizes the rupturing of Igbo culture and traditionsafter the white settlement and colonialism. Fire is another symbol that has been used. Okonkwo is linked with fire, flame and burning all through the novel, this alludes to his dangerous and intense anger. He is physically destructive, as he kills Ogbuefi’sEzeudu’s son and Ikemefuna. Just like fire burns everything until it leaves ashes, Okonkwo finally yields to his rage, allowing it to overcome him until he commits the suicide (Gordon, 2011).