Things Fall Apart Cultural Analysis

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One of the more unusual cultural aspects that is discussed in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is the existence of an ogbanje. According to a study of Igbo culture conducted by researcher Bertram I. N. Osuagwu, an ogbanje is “an evil spirt causing people to die suddenly” (Osuagwu 36). Some believe that the ogbanje are deities that enter the world and become human beings, but because of a promise that they made to the spirit world, they die early in their lives (Osuagwu 36). In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s wife Ekwefi believes that she has been cursed by an ogbanje because of the abnormally high mortality rate of her children. Early in the novel, Achebe describes the hardship that Ekwefi has endured, stating “Ekwefi had suffered a good…show more content…
Buck’s The Good Earth is frequent prayer to the gods. Throughout the novel, Wang Lung pays respect to the Earth god; he does so in times of both hardship and prosperity. His frequent prayer, along with many of the other traditions he practices, are synonymous with Taoism. The central purpose of Taoism is to “enable people to realize that… the only human actions which ultimately make sense are those which are in accord with the flow of Nature — the Dao” (Bloom 1). Like Wang Lung, followers of Taoism stress the importance of being one with nature, and being connected to the land. Adherence to Taoism also comes with a life of simplicity, as Taoism denounces living a life of excess. Taoists believe that “such desires are bound to cause injury both to oneself and to others” (Bloom 1). One of the most identifiable practices of Taoism is the ritualistic burning of incense. Taoists will burn incense as a means of communication with deities, but also to pay respect to the gods (Taoist Federation 1). Followers of Taoism believe that they will achieve prosperity and happiness through frequent prayer, connection to the Earth, and…show more content…
For Okonkwo, being truly successful means becoming a better man than his father. Throughout Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is afraid that he will become like his father, who was both lazy and cowardly. Okonkwo, determined to emerge from his father’s shadow, lives his life in order to gain the respect of the other villagers. As a young man, he defeats Amalinze, a great wrestler who had gone undefeated for seven years (Achebe 1). As he grows older, he becomes a wealthy farmer, with two barns full of yams (Achebe 8). In addition, he marries three wives, and takes two titles for his admirable action in the inter-tribal wars (Achebe 8). To an outside observer, Okonkwo is successful in every aspect of his life. Despite these successes, Okonkwo dies a coward, just like his father. Rather than face the white man and the spread of Christianity, Okonkwo chooses to take his own life. According to Obierika, Okonkwo’s friend, “It [was] an abomination for a man to take his own life. It [was] an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it [cannot] not be buried by his clansmen” (Achebe 207). At the end of his life, Okonkwo committed an offense against the Earth and his village. Although he had achieved material success with his farm and cultural success with his titles, he did not truly achieve his own definition of success, which was becoming a
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