At the very end of Part One of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo and his tribe face a sudden and terrible violence. Okonkwo’s gun explodes and kills one of Ezeudu’s sons while they are mourning Ezuedu’s death. The scene is wrapped up in Umoufia tradition, and the piece of iron that kills the boy not only pierces his heart, but the heart of Umoufia tradition as well. Achebe writes, “it was the dead man’s sixteen-year-old son, who with his brothers and half-brothers had been dancing the traditional farewell to their father. Okonkwo’s gun had exploded and a piece of iron had pierced the boy’s heart. The confusion that followed was without parallel in the tradition of Umoufia. Violent deaths were frequent, but nothing like this had ever happened” (124). The piece of iron from the gun serves as a symbol of the future intrusion of white men in tribal tradition and culture. Just as the gun explodes and pierces the boy’s heart, the effects of the British colonists will pierce the heart of the tribe. Even if the Umoufia tribe is not more directly effected in the second half Things Fall Apart, this ending scene can still serve as a foreshadow for the violent change and disruption white colonists brought to Nigeria, and this will likely be evident in Part 2 of the book. As the title suggests, things do have to start falling apart at some point, and this scene serves as a perfect tipping point.
In addition to the violent disruption of tradition and culture evident in these last few pages, a questioning of tradition by the tribe members themselves is also certainly at play. As Part 1 comes to a close, Obierika reflects on “his friend’s calamity.” He wonders, “why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently?” Obierika questions the more violent traditions of the tribe — including his having to leave his twin babies in the forest to die — and although he does not openly contradict such traditions, his very act of questioning suggests an important change in thought. Obierika’s assertion that his friend suffered “so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently” could also be suggestive of the future changes and suffering to be endured by the tribe, or Okonkwo’s family, at the hands of British colonialism.