The second half of Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, focuses on the interactions between two very different cultures: the European missionaries and the Igbo tribe of Nigeria. The two contrasting cultures are at odds, due to an inability to understand one another. The emergence of the new culture eventually leads to the fragmentation of the Igbo community. The Christian missionaries cause many Igbo to question the validity and justice behind their clan’s traditions, customs and religious practices. Referring to the white Christian missionaries, Okonkwo’s dearest friend, Obierika laments, “Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (176). The clan’s values and traditions, the “things” that Obierika believes held the clan “together,” are no longer wholly accepted. The idea of culture appears to be viewed in black and white, as right or wrong. The Christian missionaries are unable to accept any Igbo practices and many Igbo, in their conversion to Christianity, dislocate themselves from their former culture and homeland.
Okonkwo, the protagonist of the novel, becomes a representation of the old and traditional Igbo way of life. Throughout the entire novel, Okonkwo’s hypermasculinity isolates himself from his family and the surrounding Igbo community. He is commended for his high titles and extraordinary feats; however, his sever aggression and lack of compassion causes himself and the people around him suffering. Okonkwo’s inability to appreciate beauty and sympathize, reflect the social problems within the Igbo community. The Christians welcome all Igbo alike; yet, can not acknowledge the significance behind Igbo traditions. Only the first missionary, Mr. Brown, attempted to understand their way of life; however, he past away quickly from illness. Since the cultures are unable to learn from one another, the Igbo tribes are divided—literally falling to pieces.