|“Things Fall Apart” is the first in the African Trilogy series by Chinua Achebe and lays down the platform for a story that tugs at the very strings of the heart. Dealing initially with precolonial Nigeria, the story courses through disturbing developments leading to the pitiless colonisation of the African nation by the British Empire, using a combination of wily methods ranging from conversion to intimidation.
Okonkwe is an acclaimed and respected warrior of his tribe in Umofia. His fame spreads like wildfire when he dethrones a wrestling champion named the ‘Cat’ for his agility, in an energy sapping and surreal bout of attrition. The Cat, after an unconquered reign of seven years is forced to relinquish his Throne when he finally topples on his back, courtesy a lightning quick maneuver from Okonkwe. Victory not only brings fame but also fortunes for Okonkwe as by virtue of his hard work and fighting abilities he accumulates prosperity in addition to three wives and eleven children. Okonkwe in his own way, is in fact atoning for the lapses of his late father Unoka whose lethargic inclinations bore fruit more with a versatility in handling a flute rather than cultivating a farm. However Okonkwe’s life takes a dramatic twist when he is sent by Umofia as an emissary to the village of Mbaino one of whose inhabitants murdered a daughter of Umofia. As a compensation to ward off an inevitable war, the elders of Mbaino offer Okonkwe a virgin to replace the slain woman and also a young boy to be sacrificed by the people of Umofia in a symbolic gesture to appease evil spirits.
The young lad Ikemefuna spends three years in the household of Okonkwe and develops and inseparable affection towards Nwoye the son of the first wife of Okonkwe. However the time finally arrives for Ikemefuna to be sacrificed at the altar of the Gods of Umofia. Okonkwe by this time has also become affectionate towards the lad although he does not dare express his inner feelings in the open. Will Okonkwe allow a lad who is like a son to him to be mercilessly murdered or will he dare risk the wrath of the Gods?
Chinua Achebe’s story flows flawlessly like a serene river, meandering around tight bends and effortlessly tackling obstacles. Writing in a crisp, lucid and pathos inducing vein, Achebe portrays the happiness and harrowing times experienced by a tribal body, which left to itself knows nothing but contentedness. Leading a tranquil existing within their limited resources and means, the people of Umofia structure their lives around Yam crops, salted fish and wrestling bouts. The imminent destruction of innocence which is the inevitable handmaiden of colonial oppression and usurpation of freedom is clinically illuminated by Achebe in the narration of the plight of Umofia. Chinua Achebe by speaking for the population of Umofia and also the brave and dignified Oknkwe speaks in one voice for all the unfortunate and unwilling mass of people whose freedom has been trampled upon and whose dignity has been stripped in the name of colonisation by a marauding force of white men in the nauseating name of Empire building.
‘Things Fall Apart” – An outstanding tale of honour, valour and deceit!