Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Fate and Free Will

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Fate and Free Will

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Social rank and relative wealth play great roles in determining a person’s destiny in Umuofia society. But sometimes a man with sheer force of will can change his stars through hard work and a smattering of luck. One of the main conflicts in Things Fall Apart is the clash between Okonkwo’s determination to succeed and fate – which seems to have less appetizing things in mind. However, Okonkwo’s will does play a major factor in determining his future; he chooses to kill Ikemefuna with his own hands, he chooses to kill a government official, and in the end, he chooses to take his own life. Whether or not negative events in his life are tied to these three crimes or if they are just the result of chance or fate is debatable.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. How is Okonkwo’s destiny viewed in the beginning of the book? Why is it seen so positively?
  2. To what extent is Okonkwo’s life governed by forces outside his control?
  3. What deliberate choices does Okonkwo make that further his path towards self-destruction?
  4. Consider Ikemefuna. How does he, as a character, epitomize a victim more than anyone else in the novel?

Chew on This

Even though Okonkwo often exercises his “inflexible will,” fate ultimately clashes with and dominates his free will to bring about his demise.

Although the missionaries comprise a formidable force, the Igbo people were not fated to fall to white men. By exercising their will and making key decisions, the Igbo could have avoided the disunity that followed the arrival of the missionaries.

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