As a child, we are introduced to not only the world we live in, but in how we must live in it. We are taught how to speak, act, dress, etc… all from those that are molding us to conform to what they have also grown up learning. Culture is an essential part of our identity and where we come from.
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Our cultures dictate and shape our mentalities and create that roadbridge to which we walk on as we mature and develop into adults. In Chinua Achebe’s, Things Fall Apart, Achebe introduces our “strong” protagonist Okonkwo and his Ibo village in Nigeria to guide us on a journey not only within Okonkwo himself, but a clash of cultures that threatens to destroy Okonkwo’s world. Achebe suggests that cultural teachings and social norms dictate and sculpt a person’s personal identity and way of life.
From the moment a man is born in the Ibo society, they are put into the same box that their father has built for himself, observed and tested to whether or not they will surpass their father and carry on to create their own legacy, or become just like them and be another representation of what a man isn’t. Reputation in the Ibo society plays a major role in the rankings of each male individual and the respect that they are given by their community. The men are able to earn power within the community by demonstrating courage and strength on the battlefield, the amount of wrestling matches they have won, and the size of their yam harvest, which reveals their hard work.
Unoka, Okonkwo’s father was deemed as “lazy and improvident” (Achebe 4) a debtor who owed every neighbor some money. Achebe goes on to give the readers a glimpse into who Unoka, the grown-up, was. Unoka was “poor and his wife and children had barely enough to eat” the laughing stock of the village (Achebe 5). In contrast, Okonkwo was a “wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife “being one of the greatest men of his time” (Achebe 8).
Okonkwo is a man of wealth and power, acquiring many materialistic things and a higher rank at an earlier age then his father ever could. Achebe juxtaposes Okonkwo and Unoka as a way to expose Okonkwo’s fear of being perceived as weak and shameful as his father was, overcompensating by taking any opportunity to prove his bravery and courage, and working tirelessly on his farm. It is this fear that drives Okonkwo to commit unspeakable acts that go against Ibo norms and customs.
In the scene where Ikemefuna – a young boy from the neighboring clan Mbaino, who was given to Okonkwo to look after as a sacrifice for killing one of the women of Umuofia,
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