The works of the most prominent Nigerian prose writer Chinua Achebe tell about the colonial past and the present day of an independent African state. The process of breaking the traditional way of life of the African community and the attempts of the British colonial administration to introduce the original people to the “blessings of civilization” is shown in a vivid and fascinating form. National problems cannot be solved by means inherited from the colonialists – this is the writer’s main idea.
A slightly prolonged, smoothly viscous beginning plunges into the atmosphere of sultry, hot Africa, where the reader gets acquainted with the manners and customs of the inhabitants of Umuofia. The readers can look into the houses, understand what the inhabitants think and dream about, and see the world through their eyes. It is fascinating and unusual when a person is not shocked that all newborn twins are taken to die in the Unclean Forest because otherwise, their formidable God will become angry. There will be no harvest, or for unintentional murder, the whole family should go into exile to the mother’s homeland, the head of the family, for seven years.
People live with their worries from the season of planting yams to the time of their collection. Then white people came and started building churches and growing Christianity. Someone likes it, but someone is offended and dreams of driving away from the conquerors, and the protagonist Okonkwo belongs to the latter. His anger and impotence are very colorfully described, and the outcome is simply stunning in its tragedy. Achebe, in the novel, resurrects pictures of life in pre-colonial Africa.
He says that before the arrival of the colonialists, there were rituals, religion, orders, and laws, and, despite the cruelty of some customs, the people were not so brutal. Achebe is not trying to pander to the clichéd consciousness of the Europeans, who was convinced that primitive wild communities lived in Africa practically without any organization. He wrote an honest, truthful humanistic novel with living people.
This colorful work described the events in the 19th century when the English colonialists and Christian missionaries came to Nigeria (a country in West Africa). Inevitably, there is a clash of two cultures – in fact, two different worlds. Christians find the tribal traditions associated with pagan beliefs unacceptable and cruel: for example, the custom of taking all newborn twins to die in the forest so as not to anger the gods, who can punish for disobedience with crop failure. The tribe has a particular social structure with its hierarchy, as well as laws and justice: for example, murder is severely punished, even if it is committed unintentionally, by accident – in this case, the entire family of the murderer is expelled from the tribe for seven years – otherwise, the gods can be angered. However, other laws allow the killing of an innocent child who was previously taken from another tribe as compensation for the death of his fellow tribe. In his novel, the author directly alludes to the possibility of a revolution in Nigeria, quoting a poem by Yeats.
On the one hand, there are traditions, blood ties, family clans, and moderately happy life; on the other hand, cruel rituals that allow you to kill an innocent boy (Ikemefuna) or throw outborn twins just because this is not pleasing to the gods. All this is noticed by Nwoye, the son of the protagonist of Okonkwo’s novel. The book personifies two worlds: Okonkwo – the obsolete old, and Nwoye – the new world. On the one hand, there was a disintegration of the foundations, family ties, and sacred traditions; on the other – enlightenment, the pescetarian system, and new laws, which are sometimes no less cruel than the old customs. With the finale, Achebe delivers a verdict to the ancient world – the old must go in any case, despite the fear of the new and dislike of the colonialists.
The author’s description of the conflict between different cultures makes one feel the devastation of the enslaved tribes and their despair. Chinua Achebe perfectly conveys the tribe’s suffering, and such injustice makes you cry. Some members of the tribe cannot but feel such contradictions, so they are eagerly drawn to a new religion of white strangers – with a single, merciful, and forgiving God. These people are in the minority, primarily young people, and there is no turning back for them. Supporters of the traditional way of life and beliefs perceive neophytes-Christians with hostility and consider them traitors. Such a conflict inevitably leads to tragedy.
However, the book is filled not only with dramatic events – it contains many exciting descriptions of the life of the Nigerian tribe and everyday trifles. For example, it was interesting to read about organizing and conducting a wedding, preparing food, and how Africans feast on cola nuts and fried locusts. Okonkwo battles his fear that any sign of weakness will cause him to lose control of his family, his situation in the village, and even himself. Like many heroes in classic tragedy, Okonkwo’s tragic flaw, fear, also makes him overly proud.
The fall of Okonkwo resulted from changes brought about by the arrival of the British colonialists in the Igbo. The introduction of the Colonizers into the novel exacerbates Okonkwo’s tragic flaw. Okonkwo interprets change as weakness, and as a result of his interpretation, Okonkwo knows how to respond to change only through anger and strength. He gets a lot of satisfaction, “arrogance,” or proud arrogance from the fact that he is a traditional, self-made person and thinks that change would mean submitting to an external force (Christianity).
Conflicts are one of the crucial parts of every story. The writer creates disputes at the beginning of the story and resolves them at the end. There are also a few conflicts in Things Falling Apart where Chinua Achebe tells people a real story. He creates tufts of battle in Things Fall Apart but ends the novel without finding any solution for them. Perhaps he wanted to stay closer to reality, so he created a feather painting of a realistic depiction of his own culture and society.
Every tribe in Igbo society tried to maintain its respect by killing people from other tribes. This shows that Man is the worst enemy of humanity. “Nwoye turned round to walk into the inner compound when his father, suddenly overcome with fury, sprang to his feet and gripped him by the neck” (Achebe 151). Survival of the Fittest is the central theme of this novel. There are many cases in the story where a person tries to kill his neighbor. Okonkwo killed his adopted son with his own hands to show his power over other men in his society. He could have avoided it, but he showed no emotion. Therefore, he has more power. Likewise, tribal wars also revealed a man versus man conflict. Suffice it to say that man versus man is one of the most striking conflicts in Things Falling Apart.
The conflict, which can be described as the conflict between Man and Man, is revealed with the help of the main characters of Okonkwo and his elder son and heir, Nwoye. The discord in their relationship and further quarrels are explained by a new religion penetrating their community. The conflict also stems from Okonkwo’s stereotypical masculine behavior, which his son denies. Since in culture, a person’s achievements are the defining realities for obtaining status and more money, in the tribe, these achievements are associated with physical feat. Thus, the victory of Nwoye’s father over the cat Amalinze, who was considered unbeatable for many years, brings him a certain status and position in society.
After a quarrel with his father and a string of disappointments, Nvoye concludes that he can be comforted by the faith of the Evangelists. Okonkwo was, for his son, the personification of those ideals and qualities that a man should have. The father also became a reflection of the tradition of the Igbo society, but Nwoye could not achieve the same position as his father. Therefore, his native culture became alien to him, and he went to the Evangelical community, which accepted him and dispelled his doubts about his tribe.
Before the arrival of Christians, people happily obeyed their rules and customs. Their culture was everything to them. They had their businesses, customs, and traditions. They were divided into tribes, and each tribe had a leader. Their only responsibility was to grow sweet potatoes on farms. The sons inherited the farms from their fathers. During difficult times, they consulted with their mothers or maternal uncles. A man could have as many wives as he wanted. Only the strongest could survive. They told stories, for culture was a combination of different forms. White people arrived and destroyed everything. They bring their culture with them and try to force it on others.
There were many differences between white male culture and Nigerian culture (Igbo society). Hence, there is a cultural conflict in Things Falling. Strong people like Okonkwo tried to resist but to no avail. However, the younger generation accepted this, and this is the example of Nwoye. He adopted Christianity and their culture. This causes another internal conflict between the young and old ages in Things Falling Apart.
People in this book believe in worshiping Chukwa or Chineke, whom they consider a creator god. In the same way, they honored the goddess of the earth, whose name is Ala. In addition, they believe in spirits as well as ancestors who protect their living descendants. In short, they belonged to a polytheistic religion. In different cases, they were helped by various gods in their pantheon.
On the other hand, white people came with European religion. They worshiped only one God, which was unacceptable for society in the story. Moreover, white people tried to expand Christianity, and to some extent, they succeeded. When they noticed that religion called the killing of twins a cruel act, they opposed it and tried to stop it from spreading. Ultimately, a conflict arises between faith and belief. Finally, the Igbo religion was eliminated, and Christianity was defeated.
There are many gods in the Igbo religion, and most of these gods are focused on nature. Since they are mainly an agrarian society, it is natural that character will be vital to them. By worshiping the earth, they take care of it and try not to dishonor it in any way or upset their gods. Ancestors are also significant to the Igbo religion. Ancestors are often revered as gods, and when the tribe needed help, they could pray to their ancestors for protection.
On the other hand, in Christianity, there is one almighty God. This God is there to save them from their sins and save them from this life. This is so alien to the Igbo culture because this life and land are their whole life. One God seems inapplicable to them, especially when this God seems to be less concerned with agriculture and their way of life.
Additionally, when Christian missionaries come, it is clear that the Clan wants nothing to do with them. In particular, Okonkwo has a hard time accepting them. He made many sacrifices in his life to follow the Igbo gods, and he doesn’t want to give up on it. Therefore, when his son, Nwoye, converts, Okonkwo finds it challenging to accept and disowns his son. Thus, religion becomes one of the central issues of the novel.
The central character of my mythology, around which most myths are cyclized, is Tsang (praying mantis grasshopper), combining the features of a totemic cultural hero, demiurge, progenitor, patron of tribal initiation, and also a mythological trickster. According to myths, natural phenomena, heavenly bodies, animals – all were once people of the “ancient people.” Along with Tsang, the world’s creation is often associated with the people of this “ancient people.” According to one myth, the SunSun was a man whose armpits glowed. As soon as he raised his hand, the light of the SunSun fell on the whole earth. When he went to sleep, it meant that the entire world was plunged into darkness. After that, the ancient people who worshiped him sent him into the sky.
There is also another version of this legend, which says that there lived a fiery man in ancient times, and a glow was noticeable on his head. He brought good luck to hunters in their trade but always demanded a piece of booty in payment. The hunters hated him and cut off his head. According to the myth, after defeating the fiery man, one of these hunters threw his head up. Thus, the head of the fiery man became the SunSun in the sky. And his head searches for a body, moving from east to west every day. However, the fiery man has not yet found his body, which is why the SunSun still shines. According to mythology, the SunSun has an eternal rival named Moon. The SunSun chases it and cuts off a piece of meat. However, one day the Moon escapes, and she has its heart. However, according to other beliefs, the Moon is the boot of one of the ancient people.
This legend of the Moon was formed from the story of a girl who wanted to dry her father’s wet sandals. She put them too close to the fire, and so one was only partially burnt, and the other was charred. The father got angry with his daughter and threw the remaining sandal, which became the Moon. The ashes of the burnt sandal later turned into the Milky Way. Thus, in mythology, the Moon is associated with death and darkness. The Moon never dies to the end; it retains its spine, grows back, and comes back to life. Once upon a time, people also returned to life, like the Moon. But one day, a child mourning his dead mother did not believe the Moon, which assured him that his mother would return.
The Angry Moon hit him in the face, broke his upper lip, and said that from now on, he would be a hare, and people would now die forever. Some myths indicate that the Milky Way and the stars that humans see were once wood ashes and human roots that an angry girl threw into the sky. Another version describes a girl who possessed magic, who looked at the lions during her ripening period. These lions have turned into stars that shine in the sky.
In my life, there are no divisions and clashes between the older generation and the younger. Each generation tries to respect the choice of the next, which avoids many conflicts. However, in each generation, there are similarities with the previous one. One can single out that mythology and its significance in life play an essential role in each generation. All myths and legends are passed down and spread among the family.
Thus, the work of the great Nigerian writer is a reflection of the horrors of the enslavement of people living in their country. The results touch upon the themes of the clash between the indigenous population and foreigners who came for conquest, covered by noble missions. In addition, the author also shows the collision of the old generation, which remained to believe in the traditions, and the new generation, who believed in the new religion. Therefore, the novel becomes a reflection of gross enslavement and the strife of the people who came. The story reveals the concern of the indigenous population due to external danger and the destruction of the Clan due to internal conflicts.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2009. Print.