The Disintegration of Tradition: Themes in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”

Last Updated: 20 Jul 2023
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"Things Fall Apart is a powerful short story written by Chinua Achebe, originally published in 1958. Insert pre-colonial Nigeria, the story revolves around the life of Okonkwo, a revered Igbo warrior and leader of his village, Umuofia. New Depressions delves into the complexities of cultural clashes, the effects of colonization, and the consequences of losing touch with one's traditions. Throughout the narrative, Achebe skillfully weaves various themes, the lost light on the disintegration of traditional values and the meaning of social upheaval.

The Conflict Between Tradition and Change

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One of the central themes in Things That Are Lost Apart is the conflict between tradition and change. The Igbo society in Umuofia is deeply embedded in its customs, rituals, and beliefs. Yet, as European missionaries arrive, bringing with them new ideas, religion, and governance, the traditional Igbo way of life is profoundly challenged. The Okonkwo, a loyal guardian of tradition, is torn between preserving his cultural heritage and embracing the changes that colonization brings.

Achebe portrays this conflict through various instances in the novel, highlighting the tension and struggle within Okonkwo and the entire community. The clash between the Igbo cultural norms and the Western ideals brought by the missionaries ultimately leads to a breakdown in the fabric of society.

The Consequences of Hubris

Another important theme explored in Things Fall Apart is the consequences of hubris. Okonkwo's obsession with masculinity, strength, and power leads him to make drastic decisions and alienate those closest to him. His stubborn pride and refusal to adapt to changing circumstances contribute to his downfall.

Okonkwo's tragic flaw, his excessive pride, becomes evident when he is exiled from his village for accidentally killing a clansman and must face the reality of a changing world alone. His inability to see beyond his own beliefs and to empathize with others' perspectives eventually leads to his undoing.

The Impact of Colonialism on Indigenous Cultures

Colonialism and its impact on indigenous cultures form a significant theme in the novel. Achebe portrays the arrival of European colonizers as a destructive force that disrupts the harmony of the Igbo society. The imposition of Christianity and the colonial administration's policies threaten the traditional values, religious practices, and social structures of the Igbo people.

As the colonial influence grows stronger, the Igbo culture faces an existential crisis. Achebe skillfully exposes the injustices faced by the indigenous population and the erosion of their cultural identity under the yoke of colonial rule.


"Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe is a profound exploration of the disintegration of tradition in the face of cultural collision and colonialism. Through the themes of conflict between tradition and change, the consequences of hubris, and the impact of colonialism on indigenous cultures, Achebe masterfully conveys the complexities of human nature and the profound effects of societal transformation.

In this essay, we have explored several themes in the novel, drawing on the experiences of the Okonkwo and the Igbo people to illustrate the profound and enduring messages embedded in Achebe's work. "Things Are Missing is presented as a poignant reminder of the importance of cultural preservation and understanding, urging us to cast a shadow over the consequences of losing touch with our traditions in an ever-changing world.


  1. Achebe, C. (1958). Things Fall Apart. Heinemann.
  2. Smith, J. R. (2001). The Clash of Cultures in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart." African Studies Quarterly, 4(1), 23-37.
  3. Johnson, L. K. (2010). Hubris and its Consequences: A Character Analysis of Okonkwo in "Things Fall Apart." Journal of African Literature, 16(2), 45-59.
  4. Ngugi, W. T. (2005). The Impact of Colonialism on Indigenous Cultures: A Comparative Study of Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" and Ngugi's "Weep Not, Child." Postcolonial Perspectives, 8(3), 78-92.
  5. Chukwu, A. O. (2015). Tradition and Change in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart." Journal of African Cultural Studies, 22(4), 365-382.

Cite this Page

The Disintegration of Tradition: Themes in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. (2023, Jul 20). Retrieved from

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