I do not want to talk about the ‘beautiful and unique’ culture Africa holds, with the strong connection that its people hold with nature, and their respect towards their customs and nature, no matter how much the author succeeds in conveying them to its readers. Or how some of the proverbs, sayings and stories laid out throughout the book are so full of wisdom. Or even how sad or heartbreaking it is to see the gradual fall of this Ibo village in Nigeria, with the arrival of the ‘White people’ and Christianity.
What stayed with me the most after reading this novel is first, how easy and simple Chinua Achebe tells the story. If you expect any bloodshed, atrocities, and cringing descriptions of how the white people took over Umofia, then you would be disappointed. I guess that’s the whole point of the novel, how ‘things fall apart’. When things do fall apart, you don’t see any major incident that will mark that ‘falling apart’ forever. You can’t really pinpoint an exact moment when things started to go wrong. Instead, it’s gradual, silent, and when you realize what’s happening, it’s usually too late. Or even if you do realize it soon enough, there’s nothing you can do.
The novel, which starts with the powerful and vibrant description of Okwonko as the pride of Umofia, is in stark contrast with the ending, where everything that he and his people held dear is translated into the humiliating and abasing title of the book the white commissioner will write for his fellow white people.
The book starts at the peak of Okwonko’s life and slowly makes its way down, but so subtly and quietly the readers don’t realize it until the very end. It starts with the fall of an individual, but extends to the fall of a family, a village, a tribe, and a people, until finally, it all comes back to the individual again, who faces a despicable ending in more ways than one.