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Okonkwo's Case - Things Fall Apart

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One of the major events in the novel which I believe was greatly influenced by the Ibo tribe's traditions is Okonkwo's exile from the tribe for seven years. The incident takes place at the end of Part 1 of the novel. Just before Okonkwo is exiled, all the clan members gather at Ogbuefi Ezeudu's funeral but when the clansmen fire their guns as a salute, Okonkwo's gun explodes and a piece of shrapnel pierces the heart of one of Ezeudu's sons. Because he had killed a fellow clansman even though it was inadvertent, Okonkwo is forced to flee the clan since he had committed a "crime against the earth goddess." This incident once again shows just how much influence the Ibo beliefs and traditions have on the tribe since Okonkwo is forced to flee Umuofia and leave the majority of his belongings and livelihood behind because of an incident that was no fault of his own. Yet he does not complain as he is also extremely influenced by the tribe's culture and follows every order whether it is advantageous for him or not.

The contrast between Okonkwo's and Obierika's approach to culture can be paraphrased into two ideas. In Okonkwo's case, Culture DETERMINES his life and his choices. He does not try to maneuver any of the demands or orders from the Higher Powers in the tribe but instead simply follows them to the letter without complaint. In contrast, for Obierika, culture merely INFLUENCES his life choices as he openly questions some of the Ibo traditions and gives himself some room to maneuver around the instructions of the Oracle and other higher powers. Even though he does usually carry out the orders from the Ibo gods he does not allow himself to be restricted by their demands. In Obierika's case the rules of the clan affect his daily life to some extent but they do not necessarily shape and dictate every aspect of his life.

In conclusion, I believe that unlike Obierika, most of the Ibo tribe are like Okonkwo in the sense that they allow the tribe's culture to determine their decisions. It can especially be seen in the killing of Ikemefuna as well as the circumstances leading up to Okonkwo's exile, that culture has an integral role in the clansmen's decision making process within the novel. Therefore, in my opinion the Ibo culture and beliefs determine the everyday actions of the clansmen within the tribe and thus the Ibo culture influences the plot of "Things Fall Apart" to a great extent.



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