In this classic tale Okonkwo is a strong man in his village, and in his region of nine villages. At age 18 he beat the reigning wrestling champion and has been an industrious worker all his life, a reaction to his lazy, drunkard father. He lives his life within the cultural confines of his limited world, following the laws that govern his society, accepting the religious faith of his surroundings, acting on both, even when those actions would seem, to us in the modern west, an abomination. While he may succeed and fail within the confines of his society’s laws, what he cannot do is adapt himself to the world when it goes through a dramatic transformation. In this case, his home town is revolutionized when white missionaries set up a base and bring along with them the firepower of western weapons. Unable to cope, unable to channel his justifiable rage into constructive actions, he is led inexorably to his doom.
What is this book about? It is a simple tale. The details of Okonkwo’s experiences accumulate to give us a picture of his times, his culture, so we have a sense of what is at stake when change arrives. Is this a warning to us of our own inability to see beyond the confines of our culture? How will we cope with change when it comes, in whatever form?
I found it difficult keeping track of the characters. This is a case in which a diagram of a family tree would probably come in handy. Yet, ultimately, this is not so important. What matters is that we get a sense of Okonkowo‘s world. And the impact of the West arriving in an African society.