Symbolism in Things Fall Apart

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About this sample


Words: 464 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Words: 464|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Chinua Achebe's novel "Things Fall Apart" is a powerful exploration of the effects of colonialism on traditional African societies. One of the key elements that Achebe uses to convey the themes of the novel is symbolism. Symbolism is a literary device where an object, person, or event is used to represent a deeper meaning or idea. In "Things Fall Apart," Achebe uses symbolism to highlight the clash between traditional Igbo culture and the destructive forces of European colonialism.

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Symbolism in "Things Fall Apart"

One of the most significant symbols in "Things Fall Apart" is the yam. In Igbo culture, the yam is a symbol of masculinity, wealth, and power. The successful cultivation of yams is seen as a measure of a man's status in the community. Okonkwo, the novel's protagonist, is a successful yam farmer and prides himself on his ability to provide for his family. However, the arrival of the white missionaries and their introduction of new crops like cassava threatens the traditional importance of the yam in Igbo society. This symbolizes the erosion of traditional values and the disruption of the social order caused by colonialism.

Another powerful symbol in "Things Fall Apart" is the locusts. In Igbo culture, locusts are seen as a harbinger of destruction and chaos. When the locusts descend upon the village of Umuofia, it is interpreted as a sign of impending disaster. The arrival of the white missionaries and their imposition of Christianity and European values can be likened to the swarm of locusts, bringing with them destruction and upheaval. The symbolism of the locusts underscores the devastating impact of colonialism on traditional African societies.

Achebe also uses the symbol of fire in "Things Fall Apart" to represent both destruction and rebirth. Fire is a recurring motif in the novel, symbolizing the destructive power of colonialism as well as the potential for renewal and regeneration. When Okonkwo sets fire to the church in an act of defiance against the white missionaries, it symbolizes his resistance to the forces of change and his desire to preserve his traditional way of life. However, the fire also signals the beginning of a new chapter for the Igbo people, as they must adapt to the changes brought about by colonialism.

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Symbolism plays a crucial role in conveying the themes of tradition, change, and resistance in "Things Fall Apart." Through symbols like the yam, the locusts, and fire, Achebe effectively captures the complexities of the Igbo society's encounter with colonialism. These symbols serve as powerful literary devices that enhance the reader's understanding of the novel's central themes. As such, "Things Fall Apart" stands as a timeless exploration of the impact of colonialism on traditional African cultures, made all the more poignant through Achebe's skillful use of symbolism.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Symbolism in Things Fall Apart. (2024, March 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
“Symbolism in Things Fall Apart.” GradesFixer, 15 Mar. 2024,
Symbolism in Things Fall Apart. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Symbolism in Things Fall Apart [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 15 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from:
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