The African novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Abbane is a story of how the beginnings of the colonization of Africa affect the Igbo people, specifically one man named Okonkwo. The novel is a tragedy because it shows how the community unravels and Okonkwo’s inability to deal with the new way of life in his community. Things Fall Apart is more specifically a Shakespearean Tragedy because it has the aspects of a tragic hero with flaws, struggle between good and evil with good not coming out on top, and having both the external and internal conflict. The novel is a mix between traditional tragedy and the unique African storytelling.
The main character, Okonkwo, in Things Fall Apart is an embodiment of Aristotle’s tragic hero, which it’s an aspect of a Shakespearean tragedy. Okonkwo main flaw is his fear of how others view him, tragic Heroes often have a big flaw that shapes their story. Okonkwo’s flaw affects every action he takes, he is afraid to show emotion and never stops working because of his fear. Like tragic heroes in Shakespeare’s writings, Okonkwo has a reversal in fortune, where his life takes an unpleasant turn due to his own actions and his flaws. His life takes this turned when the white man shows up in the village and he is unable to add adapt to what is happening around him like others in the village. He also resembles a tragic hero because he is also a character who is relatable because we all fear change and have trouble adapting to it. Another element of a tragic hero Is an unfortunate death and ending, which for Okonkwo is his suicide, that he committed because he knew he will never be able to accept what had happened to his people. Okonkwo is a flawed character that meets Misfortune making him fit the definition of what tragic hero.
The internal conflict in the book is the battle within Okonkwo himself, while the external conflict is the fight between the Christians and the villagers. Okonkwo’s dread of people thinking poorly of him leave some to make some questionable choices. This includes participating in the killing of his adopted son, that he is fond of. This a choice, like others he makes, that he somewhat regrets for a period of time afterward. Okonkwo also fights every day to avoid being like his father, so he does everything in his power to become successful. We do manage to the softer side to him, that he is often afraid to show, like when he follows his wife and daughter to the oracle cave to make sure they are saved. While Okonkwo deals with his internal struggles the relationship between the Christian and the villagers start out peaceful but then grew to be violent. The villagers then had conflicts with the colonizers and their government, which results in the villagers giving in. these conflicts reflect the ones in Shakespeare’s tragedies making this novel very similar to them.
In the book the external conflict is presented as a struggle between good and evil, this is a reflection of how conflict plays out in Shakespearean tragedies. The book presents both sides relatively fairly, but Okonkwo clearly sees one side as good and the other as evil and the readers are most familiar with him, so they will tend to see things his way. The colonizers represent evil for their cruel actions and entitled attitudes, while the villagers are seen as good because they are just people trying to protect their way of life. The colonizers interfere in village affair and have a cruel justice system, that Okonkwo experience first hand. The colonizers also make life very challenging for our protagonist Okonkwo and ultimately lead to his tragic demise. In the end, the villagers don’t win and given to the colonizers making it feel like there’s a lack of justice. In Shakespeare’s books, the struggle between good and evil often ends like this, where evil seems to triumph good.
This books’ original African style is complemented by the Shakespearean elements in the plot and characters making for a new but not completely foreign reading experience at the time it was published. Okonkwo as a tragic hero is a character that we can connect and sympathy size, internal and external conflict are two thing everyone struggles through on a daily basis, and the fight between good and evil is a universal idea we can all relate to. The Shakespearean elements in this book amplify the wonderful story giving it a meaning everyone can identify it.