Joseph Conrad about Africa
Before the late Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) wrote Things Fall Apart in 1958, the Europeans had done most writings about Africa. They had portrayed it wrongly; describing Africa as the land of the uncivilized, uneducated, primitive, barbaric, among some other belittling adjectives. Authors like Joseph Conrad had written and published Heart of Darkness in 1899, a book that depicted Africa as the land of the barbarians, explicitly describing African affairs from an outsider's perspective. Another author who also wrote about Africa was Joyce Cary. In her book, Mister Johnson, the protagonist-Mr. Johnson is referred to as a childish, semi-educated African who perpetrates the colonialist's stereotypes about Africa.
Concepts and intrigues in Things Fall Apart
Achebe, together with various rising African authors then felt pricked by the skewed representation of Africa and made it their duty to give the African perspective or insights into their cultures and traditions. It was a way of providing a response to the misleading implications that the European authors had written. This analysis is going to explore various ways of African traditions and cultures, including their strengths and weaknesses. Under discussion here, also includes the various ways in which the imperialists invasion of Africa affected the African cultures and traditions either negatively and positively, through the characters like Okonkwo. Partly here is the response to change as well as the fall of Okonkwo and the Igbo cultures.
Temporal setting of Things Fall Apart is like a bridge between the pre and the post-colonial Nigeria. Umuofia is a village whose inhabitants are the Igbo tribe. The Igbo people had their ways of life, a traditional religion centered on the belief in various gods, like god of land and the god of harvest. Their loyalty to their traditional gods had seen them thrive in peaceful coexistence with each other, from time immemorial. The British missionaries arrived in Umuofia with a sense of superiority and an ardent intent of saving the souls of these primitive people. Those who were not favored by the Igbo religion quickly got assimilated to Christianity. The Igbo culture allowed the killing of twin children, sacrificing of young boys was another one. Those who found themselves on the wrong side of the cultural traditions were exiled. Such people found refuge in Christianity, which treated the all as equals. So helpful in such sense were the intentions of the missionaries on the surface, yet they quickly forced the Igbo people out of the traditional beliefs. Men like Okonkwo loses his son to the faith (Achebe 107), and tries everything to revolt against the white people and their faith, ending up dying by the rope rather than give up what he believed.
Achebe weaves the aspects of conservatism and progressivism with a tactical flow of events in this novel. In as much as the Africans thought of being invaded and forced into submission to a new culture and language, the missionaries introduced schools where they Africans could learn how to read and write. Okonkwo views submission as weakness, a trait that he worked hard all his life to avoid. His perspective represents the conservative nature of some Africans on what being masculine meant. Those who embraced Christianity, as well as other changes in the new culture, were the epitome of progressivism. It can be argued that the colonizers were blind to the already existing practices of the Igbo people.
Igbo people research
When critically examined, the Igbo people had their judicial systems, which were fully functional, and had guided them to justice and provided the parameters within which the offenders were punished, by either exile, killing or being driven into the evil forest. The elders of Umuofia village were the judges. When the white people introduced their court's system, the villagers were in a state of confusion since it came at a time when the British colonizers had not learned the traditional routes to the justice of the Igbo people. So was the case with the Africans to the imperialists judicial systems. The Igbo community does not understand why the colonizers imprison offenders before hearing the case just like the Igbo cultures does. For instance, when Okonkwo beat his wife during the Week of Peace (Achebe 124), the wife reported him to the elders where both were given a chance to talk before the ruling is given. Allowing wife beating can be considered an imperfection of the Igbo cultural heritage when viewed in comparison to the era in which we live.
The narrative ushers us into a glimpse of the reasons why the Africans sometimes got violent, through Achebe's intentional instances. This violence is well depicted by the character of Okonkwo in the face of denial and resistance to the whites authority of the villagers. He shoots a messenger of the whites who was sent to disrupt their meeting (Achebe 144). The act of letting the other messengers escape was not in any way intentional, yet it symbolizes the strength of the Igbo's laws within, and only within their territory. The readers can now conceptualize the reason why the Igbo did not fight back the white man. The fact that the Igbo people submitted to the white man's authority and Okonkwo's tragic suicide to escape submission goes beyond expectations to prove how dear Africans could hang on to and die for what they believed.
The axe of civilization then cut the Igbo people the wrong way to some extent especially in the manner in which it was brought upon them. An objective description of this is Eurocentrism. On the contrary, the idea that Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart in English language and not Igbo language speaks volumes about how literacy was a gift to the Igbo people, a tool of expression of bottled emotions as well as a manifestation of a silver lining from a dark cloud.
In conclusion, Things Fall Apart is a bridge that connects the Nigerian pre-colonial to the post-colonial era as the occurrences in this book are an accurate reflection of what ought to be maintained and what ought to be dropped in cultures. The various Igbo customs and traditions are explained, the influence of the colonizers and the missionaries cultures on the African cultures are described, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. It's prudent to acknowledge the consequences the Igbo faced as a result of accepting the missionaries religion since they lost societal identities social values and land. The death of Okonkwo symbolizes the death of the Igbo people since they never questioned the intentions of the white missionaries in their midst.
Achebe, C. (2000). Things Fall Apart. Oxford: Heinemann Educational.