ThingsFallApartThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe tells the story of Okonkwo, a self-made man of the Umuofia clan in pre-colonial West Africa. Okonkwo worked hard to overcome the reputation of his lazy and cowardly father, who died with numerous debts. Okonkwo rose from poverty until he had acquired 3 wives, 10 children, a successful farm, and a position of respect and leadership among the clan.

But Okonkwo was also hot-tempered and violent: he would beat his wives and children when they displeased him, and his great strength made him feel he could and should use violence to settle disputes.

His rise to power was interrupted when he accidentally killed a fellow tribesman and was exiled for seven years for this crime. When he returned to the clan, everything had changed:  British colonists have arrived, bringing with them their culture, their laws, and their religion. The society that Okonkwo knew began to disappear, as it was subsumed by the colonists.

Unlike many English novels of this period, Things Fall Apart tells the story of the colonization of Africa from the point of view of the Africans. We see the indigenous people's respect for their ancestors and their focus on doing what is best for the community as a whole; and we see the unpleasantness of their society, such as the killing of a youth to placate angry gods.

We learn about Okonkwo - his strengths and his weaknesses. He is admired for his hard work and his sense of duty; but we also witness his uncontrolled rage and his intolerance.

The point is that we see the complexity of their society - not the ignorant savages so often portrayed by Westerners to justify their methods of "education" and "liberation".

Okonkwo was not a likeable man. But he had his principles and stuck to them, until his world was turned upside down by outsiders. And Achebe leads us toward his inevitable destruction.