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Justice and Morality in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is considered as one of the greatest novel not only in Africa but also in the world. This is because it was intended to extinguish the myth that the African culture was primitive, this is by telling the story of African colonization from an African point of view. In this paper we discuss justice and morality as it is presented in the book.

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Justice and morality

In Things Fall Apart, the African culture is portrayed as vulnerable to western civilization as it was considered not to have leaders; this is because it had no kings or chiefs. Umofian culture is portrayed as having a religion, judicial system, government, an artistic tradition as well as a system of money. The novel revolves around Okonkwo, who is the main character. He is the local wrestling champion in the nine villages of Umofia and also a leader in the community. Okonkwo is portrayed as a tragic character that refuses to embrace change and this led to his down fall. A Tragic character is a character that makes a mistake, which finally leads to his downfall; this character is normally a leader in his/her society. As a tragic character, Okonkwo raises to the top of the community by working hard, he gains the position of a leader in the society and accumulates a lot of wealth over the years, but at the end of the novel, he hugs himself. This is because, Okonkwo refused to embrace the British way of life; this was in terms of religion, judicial system and the general way of life. His fate is revealed by his own actions when at the end of the novel he killed the court messenger and realizes that his community does not support him in fighting against the British. Since Okonkwo is unable to defend his culture alone, and he cannot embrace the ways of the British, his fate is somewhat sealed and he decides to kill himself.

In the novel, Things Fall Apart, the Igbo community is depicted as having great social institutions, a culture that is very rich and civilized, which has laws and traditions that help to ensure that justice and fairness is given to all. The Igbo community is ruled not by kings or chiefs but by democracy, that is all men gather and decide issues based on consensus. The people decide all the matters of the society.

Justice and religion are closely related, therefore religion influences social and political decisions made in the community. For example, there are two episodes that were entirely decided by the religious beliefs of the community. These are, the killing of Ikemefuna many months after he came to Umuofia. Secondly the banishment of Okonkwo from his community after he had kill Ezeudus son accidentally. If the clan did not act or punish these offences, it would be seen as an offence against the earth goddess. The wrath of the goddess would not be on the individual but the whole community, so the goddess demanded justice from the people.

Chinua Achebe in his novel Things Fall Apart was not shy in talking about the injustices of the justice system of the Igbo society. For instance it is clearly note that the society was highly patriarchal in nature. That is the men were the only members of the council, women were not given a chance to participate in decision making. The Egwugwu, which was the highest judicial body in Umuofia, consisted of men only.

In any community, it is important for the people to stay united and be obedient to the gods and goddess, laws and rulers guiding this is the only way that the unity of the community can be maintained. But in the book novel Things Fall Apart, these situations changed with coming of the missionaries and further the introduction of the British form of government. When some of the community members embraced the western values, contrasting values were introduced to the Igbo society and therefore it would have been difficult to decide issues fairly since the people did not have the same values. For instance certain traditions went against the laws of the white man and therefore had to done away with, this is like in the case of disposing twins. The British did not understand the traditions of the Igbo people and went ahead to question them. So when people converted to Christianity, it proved that some of the community members agreed with the British. Obierika summarized this when he said, “it is already too late”. This realization, that the community is already divided, made Okonkwo to kill himself. The judicial system of the Igbo community was mainly concerned with the harmony of the whole community rather than a verdict of guilty or not. Okonkwo realized that this harmony could no longer be achieved and he killed himself.

Morality is concerned with good and bad and this was no different in the Igbo community. There certain aspects of the Igbo traditions that were are viewed positively, for instance killing was forbidden. This is why Okonkwo was banished when he killed. This is why the community had taboos like one had to taste food first before the visitors to confirm that the food was not poisoned. Such taboos upheld the good of the community. The Igbo community also held sexual morality in high regard. Isa-ife ceremony, which was performed on behalf of the umuada, was used to confirm the fidelity of the bride. There were other moral rules in the Igbo community, which helped to strengthen the community and ensure that peace prevailed. For example anyone who let his animals to wander in someone else’s farm was supposed to pay a fine. This was meant to ensure the development of every member of the community in order to maximize their abilities especially in terms of social relations, accumulation of wealth, health and children.

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Umuofian culture was very different from the western culture, this was especially so in terms of religion which governed the day-to-day activities of the people. Before the arrival of the missionaries in Umofia, the people worshipped many gods, who included ancestors and spirits, under the leadership of chuku. The religion involved people consulting the oracle who gave the guidance on how to live their lives. This religion like many other ancient religions was very ritualistic. This is clearly seen in the Igbo community, when after staying with ikemefuna for three years they decided to kill him. This was despite the fact that he had already been integrated into their community and was like more of a son to okonkwo. Okonkwo was forced by the laws of the community to participate in Ikemefunas death. This further illustrates that the morality of the Igbo people is completely based on the good of the community rather than the individual. The death of an innocent person is used to avoid war between two communities. In the Igbo community, morality dictated that the goodness of the community should be put first before anything else, even the feelings of an individual.

Another illustration of the morality of the Igbo people is shown when okonkwo is banished from the community, after his gun accidentally exploded and killed Ezeudus son. The traditions of the people punish people for actions that happen accidentally. The act is seen as a crime against the gods regardless of how it happens.

The position of women in the Igbo society is very low. The community referred to a man who had no title as agbala, which meant a woman. Anything weak was attributed to a woman, for instance Okonkwo described Nwoye, his first wife son, as woman-like. This is because Nwoye reminded him of his father who had no title in the community. On the other hand, Okonkwo wishes that his daughter Ezimna had been a boy. This would have made him happier. This shows that the women had no position in the society and were regarded as weak. Another example on how women were treated in the Igbo community is illustrated when Okonkwo had finished killing Ikemefuna he was filling distracted and he asked himself “When did I become a shivering old woman?”

Morality in the Igbo society was decided by the various tribal traditions and verbal sayings. For example the following saying was used to show the importance of the community and how people should relate with each other, “we are better than animals because we have kinsmen. An animal rubs its itching flank against a tree, a man asks his kinsman to scratch him”. Another saying was used by the Igbo community to promote hard work, greatness and to show that one was not judged by his past was “if a child washes his hands, he could eat with kings”


Chinua Achebes novel, Things Fall Apart is a classic tragic novel which illustrates the importance of the justice and morality in any community. They hold a community together in the process of embracing change. If traditions, which govern justice and morality in any community, clashes with change, then the community disintegrates. In this novel Okonkwo was the representative of his community and his death means the disintegration of his community.


  1. Chinua, Achebe. Things fall Apart, London: Heinemann, 1959.
  2. Talis, Sara. Things Fall Apart, New York: Research & Education Association, 1999.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 23). Justice and Morality in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2021, October 23). Justice and Morality in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe.

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"Justice and Morality in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe." StudyCorgi, 23 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Justice and Morality in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe." October 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Justice and Morality in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe." October 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Justice and Morality in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe." October 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Justice and Morality in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe'. 23 October.

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