The culture of the Umuofia society before the colonial infiltration, may be hard to understand but we are forced by Achebe to realize it has traditions and customs that make it work. Although, looking at it from our Judaeo-Christian point of view we may be appalled by some of their practices. We also have to realize that they have strengths. Things Fall apart is the idea of balance and interdependence, earth and sky, individual and community, man and woman or different perspectives on the same situation.
The central image of this balance is contained in the Ibo concept of chi,” which occurs throughout the novel. A persons “chi” is their destiny, his inner self, “you wouldn’t challenge your “chi” to a wrestling match,” as did Okonkwo when he assisted in the killing of Ikemefuna, whom he loved and who called him father. Okonkwo sins not only against the earth goddess, protector of family relations, but also against his inner most feelings or his “chi. ” Any bad luck that occurs, people of this culture would say that you have a bad “chi.
Okonkwo’s destiny is marked by bad luck, one reason may be that he is so riven by the fear of resembling his father that he struggles to repress part of his personality with predictably afflicted results. This was a society where a man was judged by his own achievement and not that of his fathers. Yams were the primary crop of Umuofia. A sign of manliness was if you could farm yams to feed your family. Okonkwo is respected because of his hard work. The complex patterns of Umuofia’s economic and social customs materialize throughout this novel as we see Okonkwo compelled to rid himself of any similarities that his father had.
Unoka had no titles, was lazy and when he died was greatly in debt. Some may wonder how a society like the Ibo’s functioned, how they enforce its laws with no kings, no organized police force, and no standing army. Indeed this is something our “modern” culture could study. These things were accomplished through the functions of the masked spirits. The Egwugwu, represents the village’s highest spiritual and judicial authority. The masked spirits are believed to represent their ancestors. This supports the myth “The land of the living was not far removed from the domain of the ancestors. ”