Achebe's first novel portrays the collision of African and European cultures in people's lives. Okonkwo, a great man in Igbo traditional society, cannot adapt to the profound changes brought about by British colonial rule. Yet, as in classic tragedy, Okonkwo's downfall results from his own character as well as from external forces.
Things Fall Apart--the first volume of Chinua Achebe's masterpiece The African Trilogy--tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a "strong man" of an Igbo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo's fall from grace in his world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of that world when European missionaries arrive in his village.
Things Fall Apart forms one of the most illuminating and permanent monuments we have to the modern African experience as seen from within. Achebe does not merely capture life in an African village before the arrival of colonialism, he conveys the tragedy of the loss of that world while broadening our understanding of our own.