Journal on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian writer who was born in 1930 by the name of Albert Chinualumogo Achebe. He attended IbadanUniversityCollege and graduated in 1953. His earliest novel Things Fall Apart (1958) is a book that has been widely read which describes the poignant effects of European colonialism in Nigeria and particularly to the Igbo society. The book captures the period when the Europeans arrived in Africa with a clear analysis of how the Africa culture began to erode and to be destroyed. The setting of the novel is in the year 1890s, a time when Europeans were coming to Nigeria. The white man therefore symbolizes the arrival of European civilization and the destructor of the African culture which is characterized by tight bonds between an individual and the society they are in. through an African English dialect. Achebe has succeeded in translating the Igbo proverbs and myth in describing the society and the world view from his characters.
Things Fall Apart present the conflicted life experienced by Okonkwo the main character in the novel. He is a man who portrays the struggle to live a perfect life in “fear of failure and weakness” (16). This fear is as a result of not wanting to be likened to his father Unoka who is an epitome of weakness and fear. Through psychological analysis he has experienced traumatizing experience as a young boy. His friends used to mock his saying that he is Unoka agbala. Agbala is an Igbo term meaning a man with no woman or title. To him a man according to the Igbo tradition should have a title and one without this title is regarded as a woman. With this in mind Okonkwo vowed to keep his image as a man of strength and honor. The obsession of maintaining his social status made him hate ant frail ad weak character because strength according to the Igbo culture represents a man and anything fragile represents a woman. The fame of Okonkwo his based on his wrestling prowess as his personal achievement (13). On the contrary there is Nwoye, his first born son who is neither courageous nor masculine. Okonkwo sees this as woman like characteristics reminding him of his father Unoka. Nwoye's conversion to Christianity according to Okonkwo means Nwoye could as well be forgotten. The daughter Enzinma has the courage and characteristics which Okonkwo find them suitable to fit the son. And that is why he says” should have been a boy” (61) because this could have made him happier.
Achebe’s language in THINGS Fall Apart portrays how the Ibo people use language as word pictures. For example the phrase Kill a man's spirit or Looking at a Kings Mouth, one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breast” (p 28) are the phrases used by Okonkwo to describe his ability and the hardness of his heart. The same imagery words are seen in the description given by the author that Okonkwo felt like a drunken giant walking with mosquito limbs. This describes the guilt which Okonkwo had after killing Ikemefuna in the forest. Apart from the use of language to represents the Igbo culture. Chinua also uses as like wrestling, suicide and human sacrifice as aspects which form the community’s social institution. The culture of the Igbo people is heavily loaded with laws and traditions which focus on fairness and justice. The people are ruled by a form of democracy and not by a king or chief. The society is mainly patriarchal in nature where men make decisions according to the will of the oracle. This system is however faced by threats of the white man with in bringing democratic institution.
Another aspect which Chinua portrays in his Things Fall Apart novel is the Igbo community culture, philosophy and the role of a family and woman. The chi is the concept which embodies the universal and supernatural aspect which man has a place in it. The role of man is to seek chi and its insight. The chi according to Chinua is the duality concept which explains the separation of the PHYSICAL being and spirit being. For Okonkwo wrestling is an apt activity but eventually he is defeated by his chi because of him opposing it in a strong way. The concept of chi is therefore a philosophical term among this community and they incorporate the term to define the Igbo Supreme god Chukwu.
The good of the community is also an n aspect of culture and philosophy among the Igbo people which Chinua captures in his novel Things Fall Apart. The Killing of Ikemefuna is an act directed by the Oracle. This ritual is the central act which causes the tragedy of Okonkwo. The act according to this community is for its own good but not a cruel or unjust act against Ikemefuna. The killing of one is therefore a means of saving further deaths in the community. Chinua presents the various stages and rituals that an Igbo person goes through right from birth to death. These transitions make a person closer with the ancestors. The killing of a person at a tender age is considered as a very punishable crime. This can be explained in the scene when Okonkwo kills Ezeudu a sixteen year old boy by mistake. This becomes a crime committed by Okonkwo against the earth goddess despite it being an accident. he is therefore forced to flee away from the land for seven years to show THE Umofia tradition of cleansing. The modern perspective which has been used to reexamine some of the cultural tradition is seen through the character Obierika. He questions the kind of tradition which punishes even accidental mistakes and how innocent killing of twins. Punishment leads banishment of Okonkwo for seven years forces him to go back to his mother clan village.
The title Things Fall Apart shows the fall of social values and customs as a results of changes and development in the Igbo society. This fall of traditions can be seen when the old mean in the community to complain about how the younger generation is doing away with traditions. Ogbuefi Ezeudu complains that “the punishment for breaking the Pease of Ani had become very mild in the clan” (23). Also the old man Uchedu complains about Okonkwo’s generation which has left the old ways (96). One of the massages that Chinua is passing is the inability of a society to remain static, which means that changes are inevitable.
The white colonizers to Umuofia and the neighboring villages signify of the new changes in the society. Aspects like culture, police, Christian religion, justice and imprisonment and economic aspects are things that will be introduced into the traditional African setting. This leads to great confusion because the white laws do not regard tribal customs. With the arrivals of Europeans, men will also lose their manliness and most probably their lives as seen in the tragic end of Okonkwo’s life. The cultural disintegration of the Igbo people is marked when Okonkwo commits suicide. These “bad”, primitive and barbaric culture of the black people will then be documented in the Commissioner’s book, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger in one sizable paragraph..
Achebe C (1994) things fall apart, New York: anchor press