Things Fall Apart tells the tragic story of Okonkwo, who, determined to overcome the example of his lazy and imprudent father, elevates himself to a position of respect in the lgbo community of Umuofia through acts of strength, courage, and endurance. Unfortunately, Okonkwo's obsessive fear of failure makes him a humorless and short-tempered man whose pride and violence undercut his reputation in the community. By erasing the effeminate from his character, Okonkwo makes himself into a man who is unable to fully enjoy his success, and by focusing for so long on his individual struggle to be successful, he distances himself from the communal life of Umuofia.
While he meditated on his possible career paths, Achebe was visited by a friend from the university, who convinced him to apply for an English teaching position at the Merchants of Light school at Oba . It was a ramshackle institution with a crumbling infrastructure and a meagre library; the school was built on what the residents called "bad bush" – a section of land thought to be tainted by unfriendly spirits.  Later, in Things Fall Apart , Achebe describes a similar area called the "evil forest", where the Christian missionaries are given a place to build their church.