In what ways does the idea of progress shape ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe?

Throughout the novel, Achebe depicts how the traditional Igbo society of Umuofia drastically changes with the advent of European colonisation. Unoka and Okonkwo both symbolise the traditional culture of Igbo society. Throughout the story, Unoka is considered a failure throughout his village because he has no titles and dies as a debtor. In contrast, Okonkwo illustrates a successful warrior and farmer, who has earned titles and is respected throughout Umuofia. Ikemefuna also symbolises the traditional Igbo culture. Mbaino has given Ikemefuna to Umuofia as a sacrifice. After living with Okonkwo’s family for three years, Ikemefuna pleases his adopted parents and is considered a promising young man. Unfortunately, Ikemefuna dies at the hands of Okonkwo after an oracle decrees his death.

Okonkwo’s son Nwoye symbolises the newer generation of Umuofia, which is intrigued and drawn to Christianity. Nwoye abandons his family and joins the Christian church because he is attracted to the message of Christ. Nwoye is not attached to the traditions of his society and is a portrayed as a sensitive, introspective individual. The deaths of Ikemefuna and the twins, who were left in the wilderness to die, adversely affect his perception of Igbo culture. Christianity also begins to change the traditional Igbo society as typical village pariahs find acceptance in the Christian church. Okonkwo’s violent reaction to the European colonisation of his homeland results in his suicide. When Okonkwo realises that Umuofia will not fight the white men, he loses his temper and kills a court messenger. By the end of the novel, the Igbo society has come to terms with the new European presence, and many citizens have joined the Christian church.

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