Throughout his novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe attempted to describe the details of the Ibo tribe's way of life. Achebe traced the tragic outcome of a European collision with African civilization. Essentially, the book set in opposition traditional Nigerian society and the changes wrought by the colonialism of the British. The time period in which the novel transpired was important, as it was the period in colonial history when the British began to expand their influences economically, politically, and culturally around the world. Through the examination of Okonkwo, the main character, and the village he occupied, Umuofia, the novel painted a very realistic portrait of traditional Africa as well as its demise with the onset of colonialism.
Okonkwo was a resilient and ambitious leader of the Ibo community. He was a farmer and wrestler, who earned fame and brought honor to his village by overthrowing Amalinze the Cat in a wrestling contest. Truly respected for having reached a position of wealth and status, without any assistance from his family, Okonkwo resolved to expunge the disgrace left behind by his father's laziness. Most of Okonkwo's ambitions, motivations, and desires stemmed from his rejection of his father's lifestyle. Throughout the novel, Okonkwo struggled to understand what it meant to be a man in his Ibo village, and when the foreigners showed up, they aggravated his worst inclinations toward anger and fear of a loss of respectability. As a sturdy individual and Ibo idol, Okonkwo fought to sustain the cultural integrity of his people against the overwhelming power of colonial rule. Okonkwo was much like a nineteenth century Victorian middle class male. Like middle class individuals in England, Okonkwo was prosperous and believed immensely in the values of hard work. Just like middle class English men, Okonkwo saw the preservation of a personal persona of strength as the preservation of his position in the family and in society.