Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe’s first book, “Things Fall Apart”, was released in 1958. It shows life before colonization in the southeast of Nigeria and the European invasion in the late 19th century. The story centers on Okonkwo, an Igbo man who is also a champion in wrestling in his locality. The book is divided into three sections: before colonization, during colonization, and after colonization. The first section introduces Okonkwo, his parents, and the larger Igbo community while the second and third sections discuss the impact of European colonialism and Christian missionaries on them.
“Things Fall Apart” as a Post-Colonial Novel:
“Things Fall Apart” is widely critically praised for being a postcolonial narrative. The Igbo cultural complexity has emerged as a motif in Chinua Achebe’s writings, opening out a historical narrative of the collision of two cultures. A new culture introduced by the white missionaries teaching the gospels of Christianity threatens Okonkwo, a highly well-known public figure in his society.
The division that results from the introduction of Christian culture first manifests itself at the individual and then social levels. It causes uncertainty and commotion in the society when several Igbo individuals, including Okonkwo’s son, leave their faith. The Europeans are unable to comprehend the Igbo people’s established way of life. They disregard the Igbo people’s cultural traditions because of this. Achebe shows in the novel that Africans are not barbarians and that their communities are not dumb.
Why do things fall apart?
As a result of Okonkwo‘s failure to return his people to the unified culture they previously all shared, things fall apart. The attitudes that white people have toward black people regarding Christianity are reminiscent of how black people have historically been treated as slaves by white people. Achebe demonstrates that the depictions of Africans in literature and histories are not accurate; rather, they reflect the views of Europeans. Okonkwo hangs himself as a result when he discovers that his created laws and orders have been utterly disregarded by his own people and when he observes that Igbo is losing its reputation by falling apart.
The significance of the title:
The novel’s title itself is significant. In his well-known poem “The second coming” Yeats wrote, “The falcon cannot hear the falconer, Things fall apart, the center cannot hold,” from which Achebe derived the title of his novel. These sentences allude to the idea of “modernity,” which illustrates how individuals let their animal instincts run wild. This bestiality of a modern man is also shown in Achebe’s masterpiece “Things Fall Apart”. Chinua Achebe laments, like Yeats, the decline in religious faith as well as the senseless deaths of members of the Obi tribe.
Conflict between Igbo culture and Christianity:
In “Things Fall Apart”, Achebe depicts a serious sort of conflict regarding the impacts of Christianity introduced by White people, which mostly go against the ideals of the Obi tribe’s people. The book includes proverbs, a form of storytelling, and the traditional ideals that are brought to life in the novel. African folklore is communicated through a few traditional songs as the children say: “The rain is falling, the sun is shining, and Alone Nadi is cooking and eating,”(p 25). Furthermore, the members of the Obi tribe practice a type of religion together with its teachings, which are centered on what their ancestors did. This is the belief system that the Obi tribe’s members generally adopt verbally. Contrarily, the new Christian belief system starts to disprove this notion, especially among the younger generation and the anxiety of a looming danger from western Christianity permeates the whole village of Umuofia.
The new belief does not align with the principles that Okonkwo and his people hold in their heart. While the District Commissioner believes that the new religious culture they have introduced would lead to a stable administration in the area, Okonkwo claims that “the white man has indeed brought a lunatic religion”. In another way, this new religious culture represents a new generation’s beliefs. Okonkwo regards the Christian faith as “peripetia”, the precise opposite of what Aristotle describes as a transition from one condition of circumstances to its exact opposite, that is how he interprets the religious ideas.
As a result of a post-colonial affair of the white missionaries, Achebe has observed that a rich indigenous culture is lost under imperial rule. Due to mounting stress and the sense of disgrace, Okonkwo kills himself at the end. Therefore, the novel demonstrates how the African experience and the modern culture that is influencing the younger generation are in conflict with one another. When Nwoye begins attending church and his father objectifies it, this contradiction tenses up more. “Answer me before I kill you”, his father yells as he snatches his kid by the neck. (p 107).
Language as an important aspect of post-colonial novel:
By presenting the imaginative, frequently formal language of the Igbo, Achebe stresses that Africa is not the quiet or unintelligible continent that novels like “Heart of Darkness” made it out to be. Instead, by sprinkling the novel with Igbo terms, Achebe demonstrates that the Igbo language is too difficult for straight translation into English. In the same way, Igbo culture cannot be acquainted within the framework of European imperialist principles. Achebe also emphasizes the diversity of languages spoken in Africa, citing how the Umuofia people tease Mr. Brown’s translator because his language differs somewhat from their own.
On a macro level, it is immensely essential that Achebe wrote “Things Fall Apart” in English; it is obvious that he meant for the West to read it at least as much as his own Nigerians, if not more. His intention was to criticize and improve the picture of Africa that so many colonial-era writers had presented. English, the language of those colonial writers, had to be used in order to do this. Achebe succeeded in capturing and expressing the rhythms, patterns, cadences, and beauty of the Igbo language through the incorporation of proverbs, folklores, and songs that were rendered from the Igbo language.
The democratic nature of Igbo culture:
It is simple to understand the Igbo tribe’s democratic nature. They have a unique system of law and order in which no one is permitted to exploit social standing to avoid punishment. As we learnt from the book, Okonkwo received two sentences for his error or crime. In contrast to the harsh punishments found in the European legal system, such as the death penalty or life in jail, everyone is treated equally in Igbo culture. They thus reside in a more cultured and humane society than the white men.
Superstitions of Igbo culture:
Achebe has highlighted both the positive aspects of Igbo culture and the superstitions that some Igbo people hold sacred. The Igbo’s predominantly superstitious beliefs provide the Europeans a chance to disrupt their sense of community cohesion. The white man makes the most of this attribute for his own profit.
They will take a person who is dying of disease and cannot be saved to die in the evil forest, for example Unoka.
They avoided naming a snake a snake because if they called it a snake it would hear them and not whistling at night for fear of evil spirits.
Achebe uses the tale of Okonkwo to revive African culture while also discussing colonization more generally and its negative repercussions. With his storytelling techniques, Achebe has created Okonkwo’s world that is well-organized, well-ordered, and civilized. Pre-colonization, colonization, and post-colonization are all seen to exist at the same time in the three sections of the novel. Therefore, we can say that “Things Fall Apart” is a key book in the field of postcolonial literature.
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