The Symbolism of Okonkwo’s Death In The Novel “Things Fall Apart” – The Evil Of Colonialism

You see, when my peers were reading things fall apart as young boys in Secondary school, I did not have a passion for reading, so I did not read it. I was interested in other things. I believe not reading the book at the time of my life was fated, as I might not have deduced the lessons this work of art held for the African man (through the Igbo man’s eyes).

Though he expressed it subtly, Chinua Achebe pointed out the invasion of our privacy by European Christianity, backed by the brutality of the armed forces of Britain. This historic account remains a fact denied by the Igbo Christians of today. They claim Christianity came through the soft doings of the holy spirit.

When people praise the Book for its ability to capture a clear and undiluted picture of the Igbo culture, traditions, some of us see a subliminal reminder of how our civilization was upturned by force. “Things Fall Apart” is one book that slaps any conscious Igbo (African) man into a shocking reality of how far we have been chased into a wilderness of confusion by colonial agendas, ideas, traditions, and religion.

Okonkwo was (and is) the blueprint, the perfect representation of the brave, noble and fearless African man. In him rested a role model for African men to follow. And to see him die the way he did was most shocking. His death represents the death of African bravery and manliness.

He did not see a reason why the white man should come into our land and dictate to us how to live and how to settle disputes. What was more agonizing was the news of nearby villages falling to the weapons of the white man. Feeling powerless to the white man’s guns and bullets was the highest defeat a man like Okonkwo could feel.

But feeling powerless was not enough. His love for his fatherland and a desire to defend it was more powerful than the guns the enemy had. That love will lead him to cut off the head of one of the messengers of the white men. He later took his life, knowing what would be his fate.  

Obierika, Okonkwo’s friend made a statement that was hard to leave my mind. A statement that summarizes the defeat of the defenders of our interest as Africans. A defeat of the brave ones among us. He said: “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself, and now he would be buried like a dog…”

Obierika’s submission in that novel says it all about Africa’s colonization. Colonization was not to better the lives of Africans, just as many of our people will argue. It was/is actually the death of the finest cultures, traditions, civilizations, and nobility in Africa.

Although Okonkwo was high handed and temperamental, an attitude which was akin to men in his time, it caused me great anger that many men of his caliber (who defended our civilization for thousands of years) were subdued (and forced to die in battle or take their own lives) by an enemy who came in the guise of a messiah.

‘Thing Fall Apart’, as far as I can foresee, still holds a great lesson for conscious Africans in our dealings with the outside world. The book still remains a testament to the Golden (and egalitarian) society which the Igbo had. A society which we have watered down to please the imperfect world.


Colonialism till today remains Africa’s undoing. While we were busy going about our lives and trying to salvage what was left from the theft of our people into slavery, Europeans decided to invade our lands and force us to serve their greed and gods on our own soil.

Colonialism put a sword to the neck of our culture, beliefs, religions, tradition and above all brotherhood. Colonialism drove a cord between brothers – converted some Africans, and made them turn against their flesh and betray them.

Today, Africa stands in disarray, as her leaders and elite are programmed to please their colonial masters. Those who are meant to fight for Africa, have been converted to the white man’s messengers, just like in ‘Things Fall Apart’, and they have been handed guns to kill their own.

They kill the brave and the defenders of Africa. They sabotage their efforts in reclaiming the glory of Africa. Okonkwo’s death symbolizes the inability of the African warrior to defend his land. Okonkwo’s death is a wakeup call to the African man.

You Can Buy The Novel “Thing Fall Apart” from the links below:

This article was written By Chuka Nduneseokwu

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Liberty Writers Africa

Liberty Writers Africa

Our mission is to raise the collective consciousness of Africans all over the world. And also giving an account of our uniqueness, we hope to reintroduce Africa to the rest of the world. At the core of our vision, is to liberate the African mind - to make Africans discover their voice through literature.

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