International Writers And Literature

Symbols in Things Fall apart by Chinua Achebe



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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe has some symbols, but does not use symbolism as a main part of its construction. Some of the symbols discussed in Spark Notes are the locusts and fire. A couple more symbols might be Okonkwo, and his exile. And the character of Ikemefuna, the adopted son of Okonkwo, could also possibly be a symbol.

Okonkwo, the main character, can himself be seen as a symbol representing the African natives who stand up against the changes brought in by the European settlers. The fact that Okonkwo had a weak father and one who owed money to many people showed that Okonkwo was a strong man. He is against the idea of negotiating and would rather use brute force than discuss anything with these encroaching white men. In the beginning, Okonkwo, is strong and fights the changes, but in the end he gives up in a final act of suicide, the ultimate act of hopelessness and powerlessness against the colonizers.

The idea of exile, when Okonkwo has to leave his village for seven years could be seen as a symbol of the exile many Africans will experience because of the missionaries and other European settlers that are moving in on their land. Their culture is changing, and though many of them will remain in the land of their ancestors, it will become a different land. One where they are strangers at times even with those to whom they are related.

Okonkwo's anger and rage are described throughout the novel and are symbolized by fire, or burning, or heat. At one point in the novel he even admits that fire is ultimately destructive and does little to no good. His own fiery anger gets a couple of people killed and even ends his own life. Just like fire his anger and rage consume even things and people he cared for such as Ikemefuna, his adopted son, whom he helped to kill.

Ikemefuna, could symbolize the way of life of Okonkwo's people. Ultimately the way of life is destroyed just as this young man is killed. Okonkwo cared about this young man and yet he still participated in his killing. Many of the native people loved and cared about their way of life and yet by accepting the ways of the white settlers, they are part of their own destruction.

The locusts in the novel can be seen as a symbol of the white invaders that will come in and settle on the land, destroying the culture. The natives don't see a major problem with the locusts and even begin eating them. When the whites start to settle there isn't as much resistance as is necessary to defend their land and way of life so the white settlers damage their culture.

Achebe does a great job of telling the story of Okonkwo and his people. He does most of this in a straightforward and effective way without the extensive use of symbols. The few that he did use, he used throughout the story successfully.

More about this author: A. Y. Ford

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