The traditions and values in a society or civilization are essential for its fate and future well-being. Many times, a society’s health is being reflected upon individuals and group attitudes toward the traditions and values. The author, Chinua Achebe explains this idea through the novel Things Fall Apart in which the Umuofian values of religion, personal achievements, and male superiority are questioned by many individuals. These questions spark conflict among the tribe and its people. As a result, the inflexible Umuofian traditions and values cause the culture’s to fall apart.
The religion in the Umuofian tribe has a dominant control over the social and political life of its people which caused the tribe to break apart. The head of the religious hierarchy in the tribe consists of the oracle which is perceived as the most “supreme” (Clayton 1). Being the most supreme ruler, the Oracle has the absolute power in making arbitrary decisions in both social and political issues. The Oracle is fixed in its decisions and not tolerant of any changes. Therefore, even the most far-fetched decisions are expected to be carried out in full obedience. In the scene where Ikemefuma is told to be killed, the messenger, Ogbuefi Ezedu confronts Okonkwo and says “The Oracle of the Hills and the Caves has pronounced it.Order now
They will take him outside Umuofia as is the custom, and kill him there” (Achebe 57). This issue is resolved by only one representative, the Oracle. There is no consensus from which bodies of members could discuss over these issues. As a result, the decisions which are made are irrational and illogical as shown by the killing of Ikemefuma. Most importantly, without a body of legislatives, there is a separation between low class of tribal members and the high class of religious members, which weakens the tribe as a whole. A similar situation is shown by where “old people and twins are left in the Evil Forest to die” (Sarr 2).
Both the killing of Ikemefuma and twins left to die in Evil Forest are highly related. All of these decisions are based on superstition in which individuals question their moral standards. Nwoye, son of Okonkwo describes seeing twins left in the forest as the same “feeling” when Ikemefuma is killed (Achebe 62). This feeling that Nwoye had eventually made him realized the cruelty and immorality of the tribe’s beliefs. Consequently, when the missionaries arrive, Nwoye accepts the Christians’ alternate view of love and acceptance. He responds to their message by turning away from his tribe, which influence many others to do so with the same values.
Moreover, Obierka’s reasons for opposition to religious authority are even more subtle. While Okonkwo ask for his presence in Ikemefuma death, Obierika simply replies “Because I not want to” (Achebe 66). This defiant assertion demonstrates Obierika direct disagreement on the full authority of the religion. It may be assumed that Obierika wants a change in this society where the full control of religion is minimized and transferred to the hands of the people. Not only would religion be a factor in the culture’s destruction but also other traditions and values which would open up the Pandora’s Box in the society.
Besides religion, the emphasis on individual values and achievement cause major downturn in the Umuofia tribe. The Umuofia tribe greatly focuses on the value of masculinity by demonstrating the significance of the wrestling match. In the beginning of the book, Okonkwo has a lot of fame by “throwing Amalinze the Cat” (Achebe 3). Since this society stress the value on physical strength, individuals have to prove themselves in order to receive a high position in the tribe. Thus, individuals will eventually become obsessed with strength and fearful of weakness. Okonkwo is one prime individual who is greatly impacted by this notion. During the slaughter of Ikemefuma, the author states that Okonkwo “ his machete and him down. He afraid of being thought as weak” (Achebe 61).
The action that Okonkwo made is rather irrational and rashful based on his fear of weakness. However, the cause of Okonkwo’s attitude is influenced by the tribe’s culture of achievement and masculinity. As individuals such as Okonkwo try to become strong, they become unnoticed that their downfall is right at their doors. As a result, the tribe’s unity is broken as a whole due to individual downfalls in the society. Moreover, the positions in tribe are important in determining economic success such that “a man’s prestige is in direct proportion to the size of barns and compounds, number of titles” (Sarr 2).
A detriment problem is associated with this tradition as individuals who have physical strength tend to have higher recognitions in the tribe compare to those who do not have the masculinity. As a result, those individuals with higher status will own more economic wealth than the lower class. This unequal distribution of wealth in the society causes the immense division of the Ibo society and eventually leading to its downfall. The fear of failures in individuals and the separation of social classes lead to the disunity of the tribe however the discrimination on women delivered a final blow to the Umuofia village.
The lacks of feminine importance in the Umuofia tribe bring the tribe to its end. Women are supposed to be partners and helpers of men and have to be treated with respect. However, the Ibo tribe reverses this idea of women and brings male to superiority. Uchendu describes the status of men as “the head of the family and his wives do his bidding” (Achebe 133). The Ibo culture is base on male prosperity where only the men could achieve high social status. In contrast to men, women are regarded as unnecessary objects and had to obey the commands of men. Hence, women could not voice out their opinions and ideas in the society.
These opinions and ideas could help advance the society in politics, technology, and education. Without the equal rights of women and men, the Ibo tribe would not develop but rather contract and wither away. In the content of agriculture and farming, men own “the yams, the king of crops” (Osei-Nyame 8). Even through agriculture, the men gets dominate rights over the women in deciding the crops to own because the male society believes that women are weak and failures. Consequently, women are deprived of their natural abilities and a division among males and females occurs in the tribe. In addition to men’s superiority, men could also abuse their power by beating their wives.
The author states that “Okonkwo back to his obi . . . and when she he her very heavily” (Achebe 29). Since wife-beating is common in the Ibo tribe, women have a large opposition against the superiority of men. The form of opposition comes through passive questions and doubts which provide a further insecurity in the tribe. Fables and folktales told by women suggest the fact that female questions and ideas are implemented into the male culture of the Ibo tribe. The unequal rights of women and the disrespect for female virtues lead to the devastating fate of the Ibo tribe.
The authoritarian attitude towards the questioning of traditions and values in the Umuofia tribe result in the downfall of the tribe. In fact, the dominant control of religion over individuals’ life, the emphasis on the value of achievement, and the lack of feminine importance contribute to peoples’ distrust on higher authority. When people doubt and seek change in a society, the welfare of a nation falls apart just like the Umuofian village in Things Fall Apart.