Chinua Achebe in his novel Things Fall Apart tells the story of the people in an African (Nigerian) village during a time of great change on that continent and in that village. The story focuses on the lives of the people after the coming of the white man. Achebe focuses his sympathy for the Africans on the protagonist of the book, Okonkwo, while being critical in his portrayal of the Europeans who exploit the Africans.
Achebe shows the injustices of imperialism and the suffering of the Africans, but he does so in a way which shows the reader that life is not simply black and white, so to speak, but filled instead with grays. The book is effective in part because of the realistic and complex way in which the author portrays both the European oppressors and the Africans who are oppressed.
In the village of Umuofia, Okonkwo is a unique character. The village is being threatened by Europeans who are deliberately as well as unconsciously spreading their culture and religion into a culture with a great history and much variety. The Europeans are unaware of this history and variety, or simply do not care. Their motivation is not significant in comparison to the damage they are doing to the Africans and their way of life. What makes Okonkwo the center of the novel and its tragedy is that he is caught in the middle of the tensions that drive the book. He is in the middle of the generational struggle of those who want to be more like the Europeans and those who want to stick their heads in the sand and try to maintain the traditional ways. He honors the old ways, when he returns, but he does so in part from a self-aggrandizing way. He is also at odds with his father, who to some degree represents not only those old ways but their corruption.
The first part of the book shows an African culture which is relatively strong and orderly, although Achebe does show its faults and weaknesses. Still, those shortcomings or oddities are inte...