Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart Theme of Religion
The Igbo gods are mostly manifestations of nature and its elements, which makes sense because they are an agricultural society that depends on the regularity of seasons and natural phenomena to survive. They worship the goddess of the earth and are always careful to avoid committing sins against her for fear of vengeance that might wipe out an entire generation. The Igbo ancestors also take on a divine nature to some extent. Family plays such a central role in Igbo life that the spirits of their ancestors are consulted for almost every decision and even serve as judges in legal trials (in the form of masked elders). The Igbo emphasis on numerous gods associated with nature and also on ancestors and somewhat divine contrasts sharply with the single God of Christianity which seems far less directly relevant to the Igbo lifestyle.
Questions About Religion
- What is the nature of the Igbo gods? What sorts of elements or concepts do they represent? What does this indicate about Igbo culture?
- Why do you think there is so much superstition surrounding children (abandoned twins, ogbanje children)?
- Are the Igbo gods vengeful? When compared to Christianity? What sort of justice do they carry out?
- Do the Umuofia truly believe that the egwugwu are ancestral spirits or do they realize that they are masked elders of the clan?
- Did all of the villagers and Mr. Smith actually hear a goddess crying? How is the reader supposed to interpret the scene in which the Mother of the Spirits is weeping?
Chew on This
The essence of the Igbo beliefs is contrary to the monotheistic Christian religion promoted by the missionaries.
Despite the Igbo’s polytheistic belief system, their gods are all different facets of one supreme god, ultimately similar to the Christian deity.