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    Patrick Stephens Essay (1078 words)

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    HUMN 420Final ExamFreytag’s Triangle in Things Fall ApartThere are five distinct elements to Freytag’s Triangle, which are:exposition, complication, the climax or turning point, falling action andfinally the denouement. In Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, wewitness the rise and fall of the protagonist, Okonkwo, along with thedestruction of his culture and community.

    These two elements mirror eachother as an examination of the death of a tribal culture. The exposition ofthe novel is an exploration of the character of Okonkwo and the customs,religion and laws of his tribal community, Umuofia. The complicationdetails the seven-year banishment of Okonkwo to Mbanta and the growingthreat of missionary law and religion to the Ibo people. The climax is thekilling of the court messenger by Okonkwo while the falling action is thelack of response by his people to his desire to attack and drive out themissionaries from their lands.

    The denouement is the suicide of Okonkwo. The exposition of Things explores the tribal culture of the Ibo andalso examines the character of their great warrior and leader, Okonkwo. Okonkwo was a man driven by a ruthless ambition to achieve greatness. Helabored tirelessly to build his fame and fortune throughout Umuofia. He wasintolerant of weakness in others and was well known for his hair-triggertemper that would often erupt in violence. At least part of the drivingforce behind Okonkwo’s ambition and intolerance was the deep shame andanimosity he held for his father.

    The narrator notes, “And so, Okonkwo wasruled by one passion-to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another idleness. ” (Achebe, 13)This uncompromising strength would have served his tribe well when themissionaries showed up, but fate dealt Okonkwo and his tribe a bitter handof cards when he is exiled for accidentally killing a young man during afuneral. This exile would lead to the fall of Okonkwo and his tribe.

    Hisabsence would leave his village vulnerable to the missionary attack on hispeople’s way of life. The exposition also reveals the intricacies of the tribal culture,religion and law of Umuofia. The narrator reveals, “Umuofia was feared byall its neighbors. It was powerful in war and in magic, and it’s priest andmedicine men were feared in all the surrounding country. They have a systemof currency using Cowry shells. We learn that they are a polygamous culturethat is dominated by the husband.

    Each man lives in a compound with hiswives; each wife lives in a separate hut with her children. When Okonkwobeats his wife during the Week of Peace, he must appear before Ezeani, thepriestess of the earth goddess, Ani and is fined for his transgression. (31) The exposition reveals the importance of yams and palm oil to thepeople of Umuofia. The exposition takes place during the first 13 chaptersof Things Fall Apart, and it is where we learn about the day-to-day life ofthe people of Umuofia. Chapters 14-19 deal with the intrusion of missionaries on the lives ofthe people of Umuofia and on the exile of Okonkwo.

    This is the complicationor rising action of Achebe’s novel. The narrator writes about Okonkwo’sexile by asserting, “Although he had prospered in his motherland Okonkwoknew that he would have prospered even more in Umuofia, in the land of hisfathers where men were bold and warlike. In these seven years he would haveclimbed to the utmost heights. And so, he regretted every day of hisexile. ” (162) Okonkwo’s exile leaves a void with the people of his villagewhen the missionaries begin to infiltrate their way of life. The narratornotes, “The missionaries had come to Umuofia.

    They had built their churchthere, won a handful of converts and were already sending evangelist to thesurrounding towns and villages. ” They spread to the village of Mbanta whereOkonkwo is exiled and when the villagers hear that one of the Christianconverts has deliberately killed a royal python, Okonkwo reveals hisresponse to this invasion of outsiders, “Let us not reason like cowards, ifa man comes into my hut and defecates on the floor, what do I do? Do I shutmy eyes? No! I take a stick and break his head. That is what a man does. These people are daily pouring filth over us, and Okefe says we shouldpretend not to see.

    ” (158-59) Okonkwo is clearly ready to drive theseinterlopers out. An elder of Mbanta states his fear about missionaries whenhe says, “An abominable religion has settled among you. A man can now leavehis father and brothers. He can curse the gods of his fathers and hisancestors, like a hunter’s dog that suddenly goes mad and turns on hismaster. ” (167) These words echo in Okonkwo’s mind as he prepares to returnto his village. The climax is foretold by a conversation between Okonkwo and hisfriend, Obierika.

    Okonkwo ask, “What is it that has happened to our people?Why have they lost the power to fight? . . . We must fight these men and drivethem from our land. ” (175-76) Obierika replies, “It is already too late. Our own men and our sons have joined the stranger.

    ” Okonkwo is not ready togive up; he helps inspire the people of his village to burn down themissionary church. Okonkwo and 5 other leaders of the village are arrestedand then beaten and humiliated until a fine is paid for the church fire. After the fine is paid and the 6 are released, the village calls a meetingto discuss the crimes against their culture, it is during that meeting thata court messenger show up and tries to break up the meeting. Okonkwo chopsoff his head. The narrator tells us, “Okonkwo stood looking at the deadman. He knew that Umuofia would not go to war.

    He knew because they let theother messengers escape. Okonkwo turned and walked away, alone. Thisrepresents the falling action of the novel. The reaction of his people tohis violent call to arms against the invaders of their way of life is torun away in fear. He has no army to lead. The great warriors of Umuofiahave been pacified.

    The denouement is the suicide of Okonkwo. He kills himself because hecan’t face a future where the life he has devoted himself to has now becomeextinct. He also despairs that his people will lose their life, theirculture without fighting for it. He does it even though it is an”abomination” and “an offense against the Earth.

    . . ” (207) Obierika mournsfor his friend, “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drovehim to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog.

    . . ” (208)Okonkwo’s death represents the death of a way of life.

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