Perhaps one of the most influential components of literature, a setting may potentially determine the plotline of a story, developing culture, custom, and a backstory. Chinua Achebe’s Things Break down sees an African world that largely revolves around the geographical location of Nigeria; this farming society works as the vast structure for a polytheistic religious beliefs and a respect for the land itself. Not just are the values of the community of Umuofia meaningfully built upon this locational guideline, however the very essence of the protagonist, Okonkwo, and his unrivaled frame of mind, stems from this age-old mindset. In turn, the author himself, Chinua Achebe, remarkably shares a standard culture that is naturally dependent on the land itself, and how it inevitably leads to a clash of civilization where things truly “Break down”.
Chinua Achebe attempts, and prospers, to share an unique African culture that is inevitably and blatantly based on a farming society. Within this culture, the excellent worth of yams, palm oil, and the kola nut are shown as kinds of wealth. In the first chapter of the book, Okonkwo is described as, “still young [,] but he had won fame as the best wrestler in the nine villages. He was a wealthy farmer and had 2 barns full of yams, and had simply married his 3rd partner” (Achebe 3), which shows that his wealth is accompanied by his status as a farmer, and the quantity of yams he has. Thus, the high social standing of a person is determined by the amount of land he possesses, and the fruitfulness of his agricultural labor. Because the weather condition and climate serves as an essential defining consider one’s financial prosperity, a polytheistic faith revolving around the aspects of nature prevails also. A worry of the gods of nature are instilled within the members of this neighborhood, ultimately affecting the extremely meaning of life: to please the gods for one’s own well-being. This strength of culture and worth results in the creation of the lead character, whose very ambitions would be rendered outdated and worthless without the underlying culture that is enabled by this land.
From the start of the unique, Okonkwo establishes himself as a male of uncontested strength. He strives to the maximum to end up being the very opposite of what his dad when was: a male who was a “failure” in Okonkwo’s eyes. What constitutes as “failure”? In the context of this novel, Okonkwo’s daddy is poor and lacks the wealth that is measured in yams. This very wealth is only made possible by the ability of the land to produce yams. When Unoka, Okonkwo’s daddy, consulted a priestess in the past, he grieves of his misery, “I also eliminate a dick at the shrine of Ifejioku, the god of yams. I clear the bush and set fire to it when it is dry. I sow the yams when the first rain has actually fallen, and stake them when the young tendrils appear […] when a guy is at peace with his gods and his ancestors, his harvest will be good or bad according to the strength of his arm” (Achebe 6). The display of sacrifice towards the god of yams shows the omnipresence of their religious beliefs. Additionally, the Umuofian neighborhood prevents angering the gods at all expenses and makes their worry outright. When Okonkwo beats his partner during the Week of Peace, he is reprimanded, but not for the assumed reasons of his abuse. Okonkwo is required to repent, to avoid his misdeed in spurring the gods to unleash their rage on the neighborhood as a whole. This shows a relatively interconnected nature of each and every individual for the welfare of the entire tribe, in efforts to protect the very essence of the land and the life that gains advantage and wealth from it.
Therefore a clashing of two significantly various cultures causes the inescapable failure of Umuofia when the Christian missionaries make their long-lived and vastly harmful influence on an already growing society. Without the origin of a farming society, the European missionaries do not comprehend the greatness of a culture that is established upon foreign roots, as demonstrated by an interaction between Reverend Smith and Oberieka. The Christian missionary is not able to understand this polytheistic religion and ways of life; had he been raised in this physical environment, he would not have overlooked and demeaned the spiritual essence of nature as foolish. Thus it is kept in mind that as Umuofia is located in Nigeria, the missionaries stem from Europe. The results of these contrasting settings are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Achebe’s extremely objective is founded upon the greatness of a culture that is ultimately damaged by foreign powers who are unable to start any form of cultural diffusion. He information on this powerful damage, and how it ruins Okonkwo’s spirit and character at the end, rendering him helpless and to his unforeseen death. This country setting of yams and gods of nature eventually sets a special warrior culture that Achebe efficiently shares, justly glorifying a distinct African neighborhood that is devoted at no ends to its really origins.