Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Tragedy
Okonkwo sets out to make his own reputation and fortune.
Okonkwo feels a deep insecurity about being like his father – weak and effeminate. Having been left with no inheritance save massive debts, Okonkwo is determined to “make himself” by pulling himself up by his own proverbial bootstraps. Okonkwo plays by all the rules of the tribe. He toils and labors arduously and exploits his talent in wrestling to present himself to society in the best light he can possibly manage.
Okonkwo becomes one of the top dogs in Umuofia.
Okonkwo establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with. He builds a large compound and productive farm. He marries three wives and has eight children in Umuofia. When young man named Ikemefuna comes to live in Okonkwo’s household, his one shame – his effeminate son, Nwoye – begins to reform himself by adhering to accepted masculine behaviors. Okonkwo started his life out poor and disadvantaged, but his hard work has paid off. It seems that things can only get better for Okonkwo.
Okonkwo’s luck is running out. Big time.
Just as life is looking sunny for Okonkwo, the clan oracle orders that Ikemefuna must be killed. Since Okonkwo has grown quite fond of Ikemefuna and has fathered him for three years, this presents quite the ethical dilemma. Though Okonkwo doesn’t have to participate in the murder of Ikemefuna, he joins in the action because he doesn’t want people to think he’s too wussy to kill his adopted son. Just as Okonkwo’s getting over his guilt for murdering Ikemefuna, his favorite daughter falls sick and later is taken hostage by crazed/possessed priestess. In short, Okonkwo has a lot of problems with his children at this point. To top it off, he ends up killing the son of a dead man at said dead man’s funeral! For that, he gets to serve seven years of exile in his motherland.
Okonkwo sees his clan falling apart but can do nothing to prevent it.
Okonkwo has brought shame to his family. Forced to live in his motherland, Okonkwo has lost his prime years in Umuofia in which he hoped to gain the highest title in the land. As if this wasn’t bad enough, white missionaries begin arriving. Gradually more and more villagers begin converting to Christianity and joining the ranks of the outsiders. Okonkwo even loses his own son, Nwoye, to the faith. The unity of his tribe is shattering before his eyes and the worst part is his people’s passivity. They do nothing to oppose the Christians. Despite his urgings, they ultimately decide not to go to war with the white men.
Destruction or Death Stage
Okonkwo has a death wish…And he acts on it.
After killing a white government official and failing to spur his people to war, Okonkwo knows that his clan will soon be completely destroyed. He also knows that the white men will inevitably demand his death or at least incarceration. Instead of bowing in submission, Okonkwo decides to take his own life. He hangs himself.