First off, I really like the title which happens to be suited perfectly for this book. Just as the title suggests things aren't always as clear as they seem and life has a way of unraveling for Okonkwo, the main character. You could consider this book as a modern Greek tragedy. Many themes transpire within this book that are thought-provoking and I must admit it wasn't always comfortable subject matter for me to necessarily enjoy pondering. It left me with mixed feelings all the way through starting from trying to understand the culture through the eyes of the character's, mainly Okonkwo, to becoming frustrated with mis-communication amongst the different parties and wanting to understand what progress truly means or doesn't mean in the long haul.
If anything, it was a learning experience to read this book and an emotional investment that I don't think I was fully prepared for with this book. I didn't think I undervalued people or that I couldn't adapt when necessary but now I see all of this in the struggles Okonkwo has and so my perception is different now. I want to try harder to be a better person. There really is so much to take away from this classic and so much to re-evaluate. This is the type of book that re-reading in a few years will bring on a whole new vision to it, perhaps in each 1o years of life, it will change for the reader.
Also, there were things in this book that I couldn't ever understand because I just can't relate to that strong of emotion or experience. I might not be meant to. I'm not sure if I'd like to or if I could become more aware. These struggles in between change and tradition are real either within myself or in the life of Okonkwo and because of this simple thread I think this book will always be thought of as a classic. For that reason, I'd say you should read this tragic book at least once.
Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.
Credit where credit is due: Achebe uses this opening stanza of, yes, a William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming.” Sorry, I didn't include this originally in my post and I do appreciate Hamilcar for helping me realize this. :) I love Yeat's by the way and this must be why it stood out in my memory. It is where the title of the novel is taken, as an epigraph to the novel. A nice touch, I think.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
209 pages, Originally published in 1958, My rating: 3 stars
Reviews from fellow 5-squared reviewers: