Photo Essay- Things Fall Apart Theme: Religion And Culture

What happens when religion and war mix? In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe this issue becomes the main issue throughout it's entirety. When the novel starts religion is the main characters biggest strength and flaw. Okonkwo who is the main character follows Umofia's religion which is the village where he resides. He is determined to reach the top ranks of his clan and determined to make his children the same as him and not his father who was a drunk who had debts to almost everyone in the village of Umofia. This issue is also widespread today both in the United States and around the world. In the next few pictures these events will directly connect with the theme of religion and how it can be a strength or a flaw to a society.

A chart of all major religions practiced today.

Religion is a main part of a person's life. It is introduced to a child most of the time by the parent who takes them to wherever they worship their God/Gods. By the time they are adults the people choose which religion they want to worship and they follow it for the rest of their life. In the novel Things Fall Apart the main character Okonkwo is a devout follower of his villages (Umofia's) religion. He makes offerings, prayed for better harvests, and follows his god's rules to the letter most of the time. But of course he also makes mistakes like everyone else and this will affect him for the rest of the book.

An Ibo dancer/Egwugwu at a ceremony.
A pile of yams which is an icon in the Igbo culture.
A group of villagers and an Egwugwu who appears at certain rituals.
An example of what a compound would have looked like in Umofia.
Kola Nuts which were given to anyone a villager had respect for.

After a couple of chapters Okonkwo starts to see that life in the village isn't easy especially with all of the problems both within the village and at his own compound. In the second part of the novel the author starts to show the reader who Okonkwo is and what his motivations are. He wants a prosperous Umofia with him at the top. His children on the other hand just want to live normal lives but Okonkwo forces them to do things according to Gender and Status. The boys are to work in the field and the girls are to do housework and other light tasks. He is also motivated by the mistakes of his father who owed everyone money and was always intoxicated. In the real world Things Fall Apart relates to the time period when the British banned the trading of slaves and wanted to "save the souls of Africans". In the book this can be seen after a mysterious group moves into the villages in West Africa.

Two men working on a yam field which was tradition in the Igbo culture.
A wrestling contest similar to those held in Umofia in which Okonkwo beat "The Cat"
Women working on pottery which was a common thing women did in the Igbo culture.
An example of the size of the pot in which the women cooked for the whole compound at any given time.
An artists drawing of daily life in a village in West Africa.

After the second part of the novel towards the end, Okonkwo accidentally shoots another member of the village and is exiled even though it was not his intention. He travels to Mbanta where his mothers kinsmen are waiting for him and his family. After spending a couple of years in Mbanta a group of Christian missionaries show up supposedly having come from Umofia. This sets Okonkwo off as Umofia is a village made up of fierce warriors and fears for his friends. Time goes on and the missionaries become a problem after Okonkwo's son Nwoye takes off with one of the pastors after having been beaten by his father. After this he supports having the priests removed from the village but leaves before a decision can be made. Back in Umofia the church takes over and some of the villagers have joined the Christian religion. Events after this send Okonkwo on a dark path eventually leading to him murdering a missionary on the street. After he is sentenced to death by "the white man's government" he hangs himself to the disapproval of the village and his family who refuse to take him down or even touch him.

A Christian Missionary visiting an African village in modern times.
An African king giving away a citizen to a slave trader similar to the events around the time of Things Fall Apart.
Another example of a missionary converting a tribes people to Christianity.
An example of what a class would look like such as the one Nwoye joined in part two.
Eventually people such as the Egwugwu themselves would join the Christian church along with other powerful people.

In conclusion the novel Things Fall Apart depicts acts of colonialism and the daily lives of the ancient Igbo people. The colonialism relates to the story in many different ways most notably when the missionaries start to make trouble for Okonkwo after his son joins them. The pictures relate to the story in different ways from depicting how Okonkwo and his family would have worked or how the people would spend their day such as in the artists depiction of the daily lives of the Igbo people. They also depict the tribes culture such as the Egwugwu and their masks and how they are a great authority figure for the clans.

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