Things Fall Apart- internal vs external conflicts

In chapters 13 to 17 of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s life takes a wild spin. He goes from being one of the top members of his clan to being an exile; from owning large amounts of land and producing his own yams to borrowing land from his mother’s relatives.

Everything changes when Okonkwo accidentally kills a clan member during the funeral of the oldest man of his tribe. Even though the killing was accidental (okonkwo’s gun explodes), the clan must still punish okonkwo: they burn his huts, obi, and his animals after exiling him for seven years. The only place Okonkwo knows is his motherland and so he seeks refuge there where he is whole-heartedly welcomed into the clan by his uncle Uchendu who also happens to be a very respected member of the tribe. According to his advice and the way he phrases his thoughts, you could tell that Uchendu is also very wise. Okonkwo’s exile to his motherland can be viewed as an internal conflict or event that happens in Okonkwo’s life. This is something okonkwo never pictured happening; he was so focused on being a leader of his clan that he never thought something accidentally (the gun explosion) would hinder all of his hopes and aspirations.

This is not the only challenge Okonkwo is facing in these chapters. Nwoye his son, has also left the family and has joined the missionaries. He has left behind all the traditions his father holds so dearly and all of the religious beliefs geared towards the worshipping of ancestors and “holy” trees and objects behind. The missionaries have come with the goal of gaining as many converts as possible. The white man seems to be the source of this external problem that challenges Okonkwo’s power. Since Nwoye leaves his father who does not approve of the christians, it shows that Okonkwo no longer has control over his children or family. In addition to losing his title and the power he held in his fatherland, the white man is taking away his power by “stealing” his children too.

Looking back at a quote mentioned earlier in the story, a man can overcome a general problem when he has support from others but can not do so when he is alone. Little by little we can see Okonkwo’s power diminishing and his foundation (meaning his family, friends, etc) starting to rot, leaving him standing alone.


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