Chinua Achebe is a well-known writer in African history, he was a Nigerian book writer, poet, and professor. Among college students, graduate students, and even adults Chinua Achebes book has become the most read book for African Literary studies. In 2007, he won the Man Booker International Prize.
Going through many struggles in his life, Chinua Achebe has stated that when suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool. Africa is a bold continent that has been portrayed as a puzzling and impenetrable downfall of human experiences. Throughout the novel, Africa has taught many lessons and has shown its excellence towards many African cultures, tribes, religions and even languages.
In Things Fall Apart readers are taken on a path to a Nigerian tribe, Umuofia. The village is based on the struggles of a warrior named Okonkwo. If it is your first time reading the novel, it seems as though the audience is more so portrayed to people who are familiar with African history, traditions, and culture.
This can be misleading because readers can often get confused with what is going on. But, when looking more closely at the novel, Chinua Achebe actually wrote the book to portray human experiences such as immediate death in a family, themes, and struggles that are depicted in every culture. As a whole, the novel is conveyed to the central theme of power. This is because males believe they overrule women’s views, and the Europeans believe they overrule the Ibo peoples views.
Part of the novel is based on the clashing of cultures. The phrase clashing of cultures comes from a conflict arising from the interaction of people with different cultural values. (Webster’s). This begins with the struggle of change and shortcomings of characters. Literary devices play a crucial role in engaging the readers and giving the book a widespread acceptance as a unique piece of literature. The clashing of cultures is one of the most universal themes that has ever been in history because just about every author uses a cultural clash when writing about the history of a place.
This cultural clash has been seen throughout history and even life. Looking at modern history in Western and Eastern cultures, the United States and China is one example. Another example is the Israelites and Palestinians. I have used these two examples because of all of these cultures have struggled to reconcile dissimilar beliefs through negotiation and in some cases conflict. If we are looking at modern times, now, it’s not all about Donald Trump. We have major issues, culturally, traditionally, and even physically. We have cultural clashes such as black vs. white (racism), L G B T Q I P A vs. straight. Every culture in every continent has a problem. It did not just start when Chinua Achebe wrote: Things Fall Apart.
In the book, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe begins with life in Nigeria. This is specific to society and how Africans were treated during the nineteenth century. This story is about the early onset of the European colonization of Africa which is told through the eyes of the colonized people. Things Fall Apart is solely based on racism. Racism is antagonism that is directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that another race is superior.
There are many examples of racism in Things Fall Apart, one of many being the people of the Ibo Village started to call the English men albinos because they were trying to mock the white complexion of the English, just as the English men mocked the black complexion. In this specific example, the Ibo people believed that they were not of lower class, but of first-rate- high class; this process became vice- versa because the English men thought that they were of higher class.
As the Europeans arrived in Umuofia, they brought a new religion, Christianity.
The Europeans did not force religion onto anyone, even church was completely optional. Over time, missionaries became aggressive to the native Umuofians. They began to become impatient with the people of Umuofia because they thought that if they did not force religion people would gradually join. Sadly, it did not work this way. In the story, Chinua Achebe has said that [the Europeans] should have known that the kingdom of God did not depend on large crowds.
Our Lord Himself stressed the importance of fewness. Narrow is the way and few the number. To fill the Lord’s holy temple with an idolatrous crowd clamoring for signs was a folly of everlasting consequence. Our Lord used the whip only once in His life – to drive the crowd away from His church. (Achebe 135). Slowly, the Europeans started to disband and obliviate the native beliefs and started to dominate their society. Throughout the story, Achebe begins to slowly express the effects that the missionaries had on the Umuofia people through repeated imagery of tribe drums. These signature Umuofian drums are expressed many times throughout the story until the Europeans arrived. Then the drums were heard no more.
The drums became a symbol of unity. Just as we come together when we have a hurricane that destroys a city the Umuofia people come together, gathered around a tribal drum. On page 44 of Things Fall Apart, the drums were still beating, persistent and unchanging. Any time Chinua Achebe mentions the drums, society begins to miraculously function correctly. It seems that the drum gives people a purpose in life. Every person in the village knew their purpose and place in life. However, the continuously mentioning of the drum is imagery for before the European missionaries arrived. This stands evident to the lack of drums throughout the rest of the novel.
After the Christian missionaries arrived in Umuofia, they quickly started to convert the local colony. Using many methods, one method they used was to captivate the tribesmen and sing hymns to them. On page 146 of Things Fall Apart, the missionaries burst into song. It was a happy and upbeat song that the evangelist had power too. In this part of the book, Chinua Achebe used imagery of the silent and dusty village of men’s heart that has been submerged to Christian music. This was to show the Umuofia people that the Europeans point of view was stronger and more suited. The missionaries did bring water to a desert. During this time, Okonkwo is returning from his seven-year exile. He is furious because he sees that the
Europeans are dominating his culture, his way of life. He feels as though it is his fault because as a strong warrior he was not present to help his country.
In addition to the cultural clash, Chinua Achebe begins to explore the theme of femininity versus masculinity.The world is large said Okonkwo. I have even heard that in some tribes a mans children belong to his wife and her family. That cannot be said Machi. You might as well say that the woman lies on top of the man when they are making the babies. (Achebe 354)
In doing this, Achebe is showing Okonkwos shortcomings. Okonkwo begins to become more motivated by his desires to prove himself as a superior character in the book. Okonkwo used to be a coward and irresponsible. His fame and popularity increased and he pursued his ideal masculinity. Okonkwo continually distanced himself from anything that was remotely close to feminine. He constantly reminded himself of his masculinity and always strived to make sure all his clansmen knew what he was doing as well. Okonkwo was violent and didnt care about people’s feelings. Everything that Okonkwo does burns.
Everything he does backfires and nothing good has ever come from what he has done. At some parts of the book, it seems as though Chinua Achebe is trying to change Okonkwo for the better, but when you least expect it turns into shambles. This is a man that nags on his wives and son, as well as beats his son-Nwoye. Okonkwo despises Nwoye, his own flesh, and blood.
Although Okonkwo has a fiery personality, this is what allowed him to strive and succeed in Umuofia. His constant destructive nature led to his death. This was suicide. As time goes on the Europeans began to gain influence and started political standpoints in the Umuofian government. Okonkwo saw his own power as a risk. Okonkwo knew that he was a destructive character, yet in still he kept doing his worst. When the Europeans actually triumphed when taking control of the Umuofian government then Okonkwo dies a victim of his own destructive nature. This is the great fire metaphor that Chinua Achebe has written about, this is seen throughout the middle and end of the book.
This novel has made African Literature history. Chinua Achebe has made a great impact on society. This African writer has written many books all well known. So, no matter the background, Chinua Achebes Things Fall Apart describes how a society should come together and teaches one how leadership works. With this being said, Things Fall Apart is a simple story that gives life a lesson, that from whenever you are being read. The lesson is that Africa is not the incomprehensible content that people think it is. Africa is actually well off and has a lot of high-class people.
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