Things Fall Apart
Characteristics of the Protagonist in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart commences with Okonkwo occupying a deeply esteemed/respected position in the clan of Umuofia. Okonkwo’s fellow villagers find themselves regarding him with respect due to the fact that his status was acquired solely through personal effort. As a result of being raised by his father Unoka, who was considered an indolent, idle, and neglectful individual in Umuofian society, Okonkwo grows up with an extreme hatred for Unoka and all the values he assimilates with him, finding himself acutely motivated by an inner desire to succeed despite the continuous and eventually damning failures of his father. Okonkwo’s animonisties towards can be encapsulated in his description/perspective of Ukona found in the very first chapter of the book:
He had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had had no patience with his father. Unoka, for that was his father’s name, had died ten years ago. In his day he was lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow. If any money came his way, and it seldom did, he immediately bought gourds of palm-wine, called round his neighbors and made merry. (Achebe 3)
Unoka perished in disgrace, owing debt to a multiple of members of Umuofian society. Thus Okonkwo is determined to build his life on principles sharply contrasting with the values associated with his father. Ukona was a generally idle and highly impoverished; thus Okonkwo strives to be is highly productive, generating himself wealth through the growth of yam crops and the acquirement of a family. Ukona was degraded by all those in Umuofian clan due to his reputation of unreliability and leeching nature; thus Okonkwo dedicates himself to securing himself a valued position in society, acquiring the title of a masked spirit (one who administers justice to clan members) and establishing himself as a respected warrior through the defeat of Amalinze the Cat. Ukona was acknowledged as a man of genial and kind nature, finding himself partial to activities such as music and discussion with others; thus Okonkwo transforms into stoic, violent, and hot-tempered individual, develops a deep-rooted hatred for music and anything he considers “soft”. The nature of Okonkwo’s childhood causes him to associate masculinity with characteristics such as violence, brutalness, and a lack of any sort of emotion, a toxic circumstance that renders him unable to express his emotions, ultimately leading to his demise.
Arguably, the first trial in Okonkwo’s detrimental relationship with emotion was brought about by the adoption and subsequent murder of his son Ikemefuna. To avoid war after the murder of an Umuofian man’ wife at the hands of a villager from Mbaino (a neighboring village), Mbaino gifts the Umuofians with a virgin and a fifteen year old boy by the name of Ikemefuna. The responsibility of raising Ikemefuna is given to Okonkwo’s family, who treat him as one of their own. Okonkwo develops a fondness for Ikemefuna, as he sees him as a positive masculine influence on his son Nwoye, whom he often disregards as excessively gentle and feminine. He withholds himself from expressing any sort of affection , though, as seeing any sort of endearment as feminine and scornful.
Eventually, the Oracle informs Okonkwo that is Ikemefuna is destined to die,; however, as Ikemefuna’s adopted father, Okonkwo is forbidden to play any part in the death. It is Okonkwo’s unquestioning loyalty to masculinity over family that cause him to disobey this order; when Ikemefuna is attacked with a machete and pleads to Okonkwo for help, it is by Okonkwo’s own hand that Ikemefuna is killed. Ikemefuna’s death takes a tremendous toll on Okonkwo; as is described in the introduction of Chapter 8:
He did not sleep at night. He tried not to think about Ikemefuna, but the more he tried the more he thought about him. Once he got up from bed and walked about his compound. But he was so weak that his legs could hardly carry him. He felt like a drunken giant walking with the limbs of a mosquito. Now and then a cold shiver descended on his head and spread down his body.
Okonkwo’s refusal to display any form of outward affection for Ikemefuna was crucial in his path to his own eventual death. One would expect such an experience to instill a lesson to Okonkwo on the importance of human emotion; conversely and quite surprisingly, though, Ikemefuna’s death only furthers Okonkwo’s excessively violent and merciless qualities, developing himself into the man that eventually takes his own life.
Okonkwo’s treatment of the women in his life further demonstrates his fatal inability to display his emotions. Such a flaw can be seen when Okonkwo betrays the Umuofians sacred week of peace by beating his wife Ojiugo, as she fails to remember to cook dinner in favor of plaiting her hair. During the beating, Okonkwo’s other wife plead for him to stop, but Okonkwo’s own pride and instinctive violence prevent him from ceasing as can be seen in chapter four: “In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace. His first two wives ran out in great alarm pleading with him that it was the sacred week. But Okonkwo was not the man to stop beating somebody half-way through, not even for fear of a goddess.” Okonkwo is required to compensate for violation of the Week of Peace with a hefty fine and repents quite sincerely, but nevertheless fails to learn from this experience; in fact, Okonkwo’s irascibility only eccalates. Subsequent to the week of peace, Okonkwo’s frustration with the idle nature of a festival leads him to beat his wife Ekwefi as well as threaten her through shots from a gun.
Of all the nefarious and brutal actions Okonkwo’s temper influenced him into committing, it is surprising that an accidental slaughter is what leads to his exclusion from society; Okonkwo’s gun is fired by mistake during the funeral of his warrior friend Ogbuefi Ezeudu, killing Ezeudu’s 16-year old son.
The Issues of Race and Identity in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
The issues of race and identity in Things Fall Apart stem from the Europeans’ determination to impose their ideologies on the Ibo people. On one hand, the native tribes adhere to strict belief systems that dictate their social lives. Just as the men are superior to the women, the elders are in charge of dispensing justice and are the occupants of the highest ranks in society. On the other hand, the Europeans operate on laws enacted in their mother country. Rather than adapt to the ways of the Ibo people, the missionaries do not hesitate to impose the will of their reigning Queen and support the spread of a new religion in the colonized territories. Diana Rhoads and Sengova Joko support the presented claims in their respective works on the narrative. Apparently, the main threat that the Europeans posed to the Ibo culture entailed their disregard of the latter group’s superstitions. For example, where the clans feared the Evil Forest, the Europeans were keen to build their church and court on the same land. Hence, for Okonkwo, a suicide was something akin to an escape route that allowed him to show his strength and bravery before the Europeans took over.
Central to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is the dominant theme of cultural clashes. Subject to the arrival of European missionaries at the closing of the nineteenth century, the Nigerians that form the basis of the novel undergo a steady yet palpable transformation that threatens their traditions. Under the doctrines of Christianity and European laws, Achebe manages to capture the factors that went into play in the dismantling of Ibo culture under the onslaught of colonialism. Thus emerges the grounds on which this paper asserts that the chaos that defined the closing chapters of Achebe’s work hinged on the arrival of white missionaries and the subsequent disruption of Ibo ideologies. With interest in Okonkwo, the lead character, the mentioned changes beget an unfortunate sequence of events that led to his eventual destruction. Accordingly, Okonkwo’s suicide in Things Fall Apart marked the man’s attempt at protecting his identity amidst social changes that came with the Ibo people’s encounter with the Europeans.
Foremost, on Okonkwo, the man’s identity revolved around an intricate combination of male power and a sense of duty that defined masculinity among the Ibo. Apparently, as a reading of the narrative reveals, the males did not rely on the dictations of others to determine their place within the community. Far from it, each man had to be self-defined where evidence of physical agility and wealth went hand in hand with gaining respect. Consider the sections in which Chinua Achebe informs his readers of how “Okonkwo’s fame rested on his solid personal achievements” and that he was “popularly called the ‘Roaring Flame’”. Such were the qualities that paved the way for Okonkwo’s rise in the social hierarchy before going on to cement his position among the elders of Umuofia. While describing Okonkwo as “a physically strong male…with a stout heart,” Joko Sengova affirms the character’s appeal within the context of an African society stemmed from his strength. In that sense, traditions defined Achebe’s protagonist and granted him honor as long as he remained among his peers. The next sections explain why the arrival of a new race meant the destruction of the same.
Notably, the concepts of individual and social identity among the Ibo encompassed a rigidly patriarchal society. In other words, where the men boasted strength and bravery, their female counterparts were weak and timid. At least that is what Diana Rhoads (1993) observed while writing on gender relations in Achebe’s text. In the author’s words, the “strong and warlike” depiction of the men relied on the “tender and supportive” stance that the women assumed “in times of adversity”. A perfect case in point is evident in the trial of Uzowulu. Accused of beating his wife, Uzowulu’s case before “nine of the greatest masked spirits in the clan” harbored the traces of a patriarchal society as men presided over the same while women “looked on from the fringe like outsiders”. By that logic, the hierarchical nature of Ibo societies granted members their identities by determining the boundaries within which they were to live. The men not only had more liberties than the women did but also faced the pressure of proving their masculinity. The problem was the Europeans did not condone the use of superstitions to maintain the presented system.
Extensively, European laws and religion rendered Ibo ideologies baseless by undermining the people’s traditions. Whereas there was “a single harmonious order” among the Nigerians, the arriving whites insisted on implementing Christianity and the Queen’s monarchical rule on their targets. For example, while dubbing the abandonment of twins in the Evil Forest a crime law, the missionaries had no qualms about using scripture to defend the converts who opted to abandon their families religion. Naturally, as one racial group triumphed over the other, the presented conditions set the pace for the collapse of Ibo social norms and the identities that relied on the same. Again, where Okonkwo was concerned, being a fierce warrior did not denote a place of honor or the respect of the community. On the contrary, Okonkwo’s mannerisms placed him at odds with his clan and the colonial government as the former faction allowed the latter one to settle the Evil Forest.
With the given facts in mind, the presented analysis makes sense simply because of the reality that an individual’s identity ties to his or her society. At a personal level, the notion of an identity hinges on social norms that include one’s background. For instance, because the government enacts statutes to govern the people, I strive to be a law-abiding citizen. Similarly, since my parents expected me to become self-efficient, I have worked hard to be an independent woman and continue to do so every day. The presented descriptions become relevant once one realizes that the laws and familial duties would have been pointless if I resided on an island alone.
In conclusion, Okonkwo’s suicide in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was indeed subject to the man’s determination to protect his identity and pride as an African male. That was so as the triumph of the colonial powers went hand in hand with the dismantling of the traditions that protected Okonkwo’s interests. In reality, outside Ibo culture, Achebe’s protagonist was a simple man without any authority. After all, the Europeans’ laws punished bravery while their religion welcomed all persons irrespective of their gender and titles within Ibo society. Consequently, and in what should have been an act of heroism, Okonkwo’s decision to take up arms against the Europeans constituted a criminal act in the new system. Evidently, once colonialism took roots, everything Okonkwo worked for proved to be useless.
Things Fall Apart: Character Analysis of Okonkwo
We have read the novel Things Fall Apart and the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in class which is a a part of Part 4: language and literature course. I have selected Things Fall Apart as the primary source for my task and am creating an alternate version of the ending for the novel. I feel that the main protagonist, Okonkwo was tied up with the rules and tradition of the Igbo culture and committing suicide was considered such a heinous crime in in the Igbo culture.
I believe Okonkwo together with the people of Umuofia should have caught the messengers and arrested them and then try to drive the government out of the nine villages. The purpose is to bring more meaning to the ending as it appeals to the majority and will show Okonkwo standing up in those times of despair and confusion and gain a lot of power and influence. In my opinion, the white men were wrong to invade someone else’s land and build a government without the consent of it people.
Throughout the novel, neither the Igbo tradition nor Christianity is criticized or appraised and therefore I aim to maintain this flow even in my alternate ending.
The waiting backcloth sprung into action and caught them all but one before they could flee. Before Okonkwo could speak, Okika raised his voice and spoke, the uproar quickly subsided. “We have no right to kill them, Agbala will decide their fate” He called out to two men from his village and asked them to lock them up. “What Okonkwo did was wrong, but it was a message and we had to show these white men that they have no right to storm into our village and keep hostage the leaders of the clan”. There was some murmuring in the crowd but they all knew that Okika was right. He roared “Umuofia kwenu”, the crowd shouted “Yaa”
“Umuofia kwenu” one again, “Yaa”, again and again. Oknonkwo now knew- war was imminent.
The last of the messengers who had fled quickly arrived to the district commissioner and narrated what had happened. He was shocked, this feeling soon turned into disbelief and finally resignation. However, he was quick to act and sent out some messengers to neighboring villages soon. He sat on his seat startled but at the same time fuming with anger.
The people of Umuofia got to know what had happened in Abame and word was sent out to ally neighboring villages for help. Okonkwo sat in his ibo deciding on what to do with his family. Ezinma sat beside him looking worried but she knew everything that was happening. “I will fight” said Ezinma. Okonkwo peacefully said “Ezinma, my daughter, I cannot let anything happen to you. I will be back very soon till then I have decided that you all will be going and staying in Mbanta until I return. A war is not for a girl”. Even though Ezinma wanted to fight, she knew her father wont let her do so.
Okonkwo called for Ekwefi and asked her to quickly pack her bags as they would be leaving for Mbanta. He then gathered his armory and sharpened his machete, preparing himself to fight.
The next day troops from some villages arrived and all the women and children were sent to some other village or hidden away in the caves. Together everyone marched towards freedom, they marched towards their fate. Okonkwo was leading everyone, he was a fierce fighter and was still known for defeating the cat. “In the name of Chukwu, we fight” bellowed Okonkwo. Everyone marched towards the district commissioner’s office. All the converts and the Christians did not go with them, they either stayed at home or were scared enough to flee to other villages.
At the same time the district commissioner had called for his own troops and was getting ready to give justice to the people of Umuofia. Uzochi, one of the converts came and alarmed the district commissioner that a large number of people armed with guns and machetes were heading their way. Alarmed, the district commissioner immediately called out to his gathered troops to get ready and prepare their guns.
It was war, Okonkwo thought finally. This was all he wanted, to become the most influential member in his clan. He stood at the door of the district commissioner’s office and cried out loud “Come outside or we will break down the door”.
On the left however was another army. Okonkwo turned and looked right at the district commissioner who was more than a mile away. “It’s time” he said and charged towards the district commissioner. Both sides started shooting bullets and started running towards each other. Okonkwo reached and started shedding blood on first sight, he felt a burst of energy running inside him, he felt his chi growing and he felt more powerful then ever.
‘Thud’, he chopped a person’s head off. Okonkwo’s pride had grown and he felt the satisfaction of killing yet another man. However, the dead body had a very familiar face. He had killed a young boy who he saw up grow just beside his home, Okonkwo thought “Is this fighting necessary” and drove his machete into the ground and yelled towards the sky praying to the gods to forgive him for all the sins he has committed.
In another shwoop, a young man drove his machete and down lay Okonkwo. His blood started flowing out but he could faintly see the face of his killer before he died, it was Nwoye. Nwoye acted on impulse and understood it was too late. Now the fighting had completely subsided and men started crowding around his body. There was utter silence, blood all around and countless lives lost. Okika stood up at the moment and begged forgiveness. He felt it was a mistake to fight in the first place. The Christian missionaries and their troops were sitting on a clear defeat as even they didn’t have any more men left to fight and quickly accepted their terms. A tear rolled down Nwoye’s face as he looked back into his past, then with a stern look he got up and confronted Okika and asked him that this is bot told to his family and for a fair government to be set up. Okika agreed and peace was declared.
A new government was built but with both white men and the egwugwu. A church was also built and the Christians were given a place to live and stay outside the Evil Forest.
As for Okonkwo, he was given a proper burial and Obierika helped build a new compound for his wives and children who were never told about the killer of Okonkwo. Nwoye was accepted back into the family and the Christians and clans grew close ultimately. Okonkwo’s story is told till this day in many households in Nigeria and has become a common folktale of strength and courage in many villages around Africa.
“Things Fall Apart” Novel Analysis
The Author and His Times:
The author of the book Things Fall Apart is Chinua Achebe, and he was born on November 16, 1930 and died on March 21, 2013. Chinua has a unique perspective on the book because he is from Nigeria, the central location that the book takes place. Given that the author is from where the book takes place, it gives the reader a unique background knowledge that some of what happens in this novel could be based upon real experiences that the author had. Additionally, the author used real events that happened to influence certain parts of the novel. Chinua was able to capture such an authentic feel in this novel by using real events that happened in the world to inspire his writing. In the early 19th century British people came to Nigeria to establish government and religion. Chinua was able to gain inspiration from this event and show the perspective of the Nigerian people. By using a real event he is able to portray a more realistic perspective because he could talk to people who experienced the event themselves which can give the novel a more authentic feel. A more specific example of the real world influences Chinua used is the slaughtering of the village of Abame. He used the village of Abame to symbolize a real event where people in a Nigerian village named Ahiara were killed by the british in retaliation to the Ahiara people killing someone from Britain. He also gained influence from his family. According to a biography from Encyclopedia of World Biography it is stated that Chinua’s parents were influenced by the British to abandon their traditional values and switch to Christianity just like most characters in the book. It is said that Chinua was inspired by other artistic and literary african authors because like them he believed that artistic and literary works should be about the problems of society.
Form, Structure, and Plot:
The novel Things Fall Apart is structured in three parts. The first and longest part which spans from chapters 1-13 is about Okonkwo’s life and his tribe’s traditions before his exile. The second part which is shorter than the first but longer than the third which spans from chapter 14-19 is about Okonkwo’s life in exile. The third and shortest part which spans from chapter 20-25 is about the change in the village of Umuofia after the arrival of Christianity.
The author of this book tells this story through the present he doesn’t use flashback or dream sequences only reflections of the past to give the reader an insight on how life has changed from when the ancestors lived to now. The author tells the story in the chronological order that it happens only once does he go out of order to explain Ezinma’s iyi-uwa and how it was destroyed. He symbolism to show that the people of Umuofia see the deeper meaning in everything they believe that all things could be a symbol of something bigger. Chinua also uses imagery to express the beauty that can be shown through nature and the ancient rituals and customs. He uses techniques to add depth to the novel to create a complex plot where anything could change in the plot at any time. Through the ten years this book takes place it can be seen the differences between the beginning and the end of the book. It can be seen that the village that Okonkwo once saw as the manliest village has now turned into what he would call a village run by women and men of weakness. You can also see the difference in Okonkwo, he was one of the most honorable men in all nine villages but he died in the most unhonorable way possible according to the tribe.
Point of View:
The novel Things Fall Apart is written in a third person omniscient point of view. Chinua knows how every person feels throughout the novel and he is able to put us in the shoes of every person in the novel. In addition to be all knowing, he tells the entire story in the present giving the reader the ability to see how a character reacts to an event as it is happening in real time. He keeps his point of view consistent through the entire novel. He is speaking in third person omniscient at every point in the novel. This book benefits more from a third person point of view than a first because with so many events that happen in this novel and so many people being involved in every event it is important to know what every character is thinking instead of just one character.
In Things Fall Apart most of the major characters like Okonkwo, Nwoye, and Ezinma are round characters because of how in depth the author describes all of them. Characters like Unoka and most of the gods are flat characters due to the lack of detail that they are described with. All of the characters except one is a static character. That character is Nwoye, and he shows he is a dynamic character because he changed everything about himself when he discovered Christianity. Most are the characters can be seen as believable people that could live in the real world partly because of how they are introduced in the book. The author reveals each character in a way that flows with how events in the real world would happen he doesn’t just spring characters up out of nowhere he adds them into a part of the book where they would be needed in a real life scenario. This book has around 21 characters that are talked about with some detail however most of these characters are just simple characters who don’t play a major role in the book. These minor characters are used in the story to advance the plot and to help or hinder the main characters in their main goal.
The main character and protagonist of this novel is Okonkwo, which means boy born on Nkwo. He is around 30 years old and a strong, proud, and traditional warrior who follows the customs that the ancestors have brought before his time. He is very well built and large with a face that makes him always have a serious look on it. He is a strict and stubborn man whose main driving force and function in the novel is to be nothing like his weak, effeminate father. One major quote that sums up Okonkwo is “An Umuofia man does not refuse a call,” he said. “He may refuse to do what he is asked; he does not refuse to be asked”.This quote shows how rigid he is in tradition and his pride of being a part of Umuofia.
Another main character of this novel is Nwoye, which means a mothers pride. A twelve year old boy that is lazy, caring, and lost in the world. He is a compassionate person which his father interprets as weakness and his main goal in love is to find himself and where in the world he truly belongs. A quote that shows how Nwoye has changed is when asked about his father in chapter 16 he responds “I don’t know, he is not my father.” This quote shows that since his father did not accept him he left and is willing to fend on his own showing how brave he has become by standing up to his father. Another main character is Ezinma, which means true beauty. Ezinma is Okonkwo’s beautiful, masculine, and brave teen daughter. When she is in exile she fully developed her beauty and is highly sought after by suitors She has a masculine outlook on life and knows how to please her father. Her main purpose in this novel is to break the curse and live a healthy and adventurous life. While talking with Obierika in chapter 8 Okonkwo praises Enzima and how if she was a boy she’d be the perfect son. This quote shows how she is very unique and not like any of the other women in the village.
Finally, there is the main character that is Mr. Brown. He was the first white missionary to come to Umuofia and he was a patient, kind, and understanding man. He is an older man who was open-minded and willing to make an effort to understand and cooperate with Umuofia. His purpose in the novel was to spread religion through the world in a peaceful manor. A line from the book that sums up his character is ,“Whenever Mr. Brown went to that village he spent long hours with Akunna in his obi talking through an interpreter about religion. Either of them succeeded in converting the other but they learned more about their different beliefs(21 5-18).” This quote shows how he was very understanding towards the villagers and was open to hearing new ideas.
This novel occurs in Nigeria in the 19th century around the time the British people came to spread religion in Nigeria. The environment is described as one with a lot of open land for farms and dirt paths connecting everything as well as thick forests on the edges of the villages. The author uses the setting to portray the atmosphere of a productive village centered around farming and yams. The setting is used to symbolize what happens before and after the British came. The setting is important because of how open and simple it is the reader is able to more clearly see the changes the British people caused.
The diction used in Things Fall Apart is colloquial. Throughout the book the author uses word that are only used in certain specific parts of Nigeria. For example he uses words like iyi-uwa, Umuofia, and ogbanje words only used in certain parts of Nigeria. The author uses imagery in this book to show the complexities in certain traditions and rituals performed in the novel. The author does not use much irony of metaphors he talks as if he was a normal person that is a part of the village in the novel. Most of the language used is short and concise because it is culture with not much arts and flair it is just a simple farming village where most people don’t talk that much. The diction is used to show the respect that is given to people who hold titles. For example, Okonkwo is commanding when talking to his wives and children but when talking with village elders he talks to them with a sense of respect for them. There is not much dialogue involved because most people keep to themselves and the dialogue used is the same as the narrator’s dialogue and it is the same as the dialogue used between different characters.
The author of this novel uses many concrete details to appeal to the reader’s senses and to make the reader feel like they’re in the novel. When you are reading you can hear the distinct crack of a kola nut being opened, and you can smell and almost taste the delicious yam foo-foo steaming in the pot, as well as almost being able to feel the crowd around as if you were at the wrestling match yourself. The author is so specific when describing events like this because he wants to give the readers a deep and detailed look inside the many rituals and things that make this culture as unique as it is. In addition to appealing to the other senses the author uses imagery to appeal to the most important sense vision. An example of imagery is when the narrator says, “Okonkwo’s wives had scrubbed the walls and the huts with red earth until they reflected light. They had drawn patterns on them in white, yellow and dark green”. He uses this form of imagery to show the depth and uniqueness of this Nigerian culture.
The novel, Things Fall Apart is very symbolic. However, it is not allegorical because the author presents the information directly with no hidden meaning, only symbolism is used to provide a deeper meaning. The village uses many totems or items that symbolize gods or ancestral figures. For example, Mr. Brown says how they worship a block of wood as a god but Akunna says, “It is indeed a piece of wood. The tree from which it came was made by Chukwu, as indeed all minor gods were.” This shows how the people uses symbols to represent their beliefs. In addition they use symbolism to describe certain characteristics of a person. For example, Okonkwo is called “Roaring Flame,” which is used to symbolize he is very masculine as well as a hothead. Another example of symbolism being used is the arrival of the locusts in chapter 7. The locusts come and they destroy the crops and bring about darkness they are used to symbolize to coming of the British, because the British come and destroy Umuofia’s religion and they bring darkness with them. The author uses the symbolism to further elaborate of the clans culture.
Figurative Language (Tropes):
In addition to imagery and symbolism, the author uses figurative language to express his points. The figurative language in this novel is used to further compare certain characteristics beyond just a basic comparison. However, figurative language is not used that often due to the novel being very concise and direct. The effect that is has on this novel is not that large due to the style of writing that is used the book could still function well without figurative language.
Cultural Relativism in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
If we look around at the whole universe today, there are tons and millions of cultures centered everywhere around the globe. With this much cultures in the universe, people are bound to believe that they’re all divergent. Even though they are dissimilar in some aspects, all of them are similar to each other in some way. So if this is the scenario, do we as human beings have the right to judge these cultures as ethically wrong or just a cultural difference? Cultural Relativism is the belief that we cannot judge someone cultural practices of other societies and that we should let them do as they please. But if we cannot judge them, does it make it right when they threaten the lives of others? Through the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, we begin to have a deeper insight into this idea of cultural relativism and the extent at which we should tolerate the cultural practices.
The book follows Okonkwo, who is a socially popular warrior who wants to have the greatest title in the village to separate himself from his ‘weak’ father. The book goes in depth about the cultural practices of the Ibo people and what happens when preachers come to the village to convert other people. This brings up many different views on which we should decide to judge other cultures and when to interfere, and the answer is usually cultural relativism. However, cultural relativism can only keep the peace for so long before the people are forced to take action. Through cultural relativism, we should respect other cultural practices and beliefs until they threaten others by nullifying their rights. However, even though we should always find the most peaceful way to compromise with the little things, in life or death situations we must infringe the human rights in order to protect them. To begin with, we should respect the beliefs of other societies because they have the right to believe what they want. As humans, we have basic rights that are meant to be with us forever. One of those rights is the right to freedom of thought, which means that every human being has the right to believe in what they want to believe. As a result, no person should judge other beliefs because they’ll just influence others to do the same. However, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 states that,” Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,” and that the right includes,” freedom to change his religion…either alone or in a community…” Through this right, everyone can believe what they want we have no right to judge.
If we judge them, then we ourselves infringe on everyone’s right to be equal. Through cultural relativism, everyone can keep their rights and the world would rest in peace without any unnecessary fights. Instead of trying to judge the cultural beliefs of others, we could instead attempt to gain a better understanding of their beliefs. An example is in Things Fall Apart, where Mr. Brown and Akunna talk to each other in hopes that they would convert each other. They both have different views on religion; Mr. Brown believes in Christianity while Akunna believes in multiple gods. However, instead of judging each other beliefs immediately, they sit down and talk to each other peacefully about that matter. In the end, they learn that their religions are not as different as they had first thought. They both have “one supreme God” and they both have “ahead in this world among men. ” (Achebe 179) Although they both have the intention of converting each other, Mr. Brown and Akunna both do not judge each other and learn new insights about the beliefs of others. All beliefs cannot be the same; however, they can all be similar in some way. As a result, if we are to judge the beliefs of one culture, then we would also be judging our own beliefs in the process. The whole process is a huge contradiction that can be avoided if everyone could just respect the beliefs of others through cultural relativism. However, in some cases, respecting a religion can turn hard once the belief itself becomes harmful to others.
Different beliefs lose respect and become harmful once they begin to nullify the rights of others. The most common reason for beliefs losing the respect from others is due to the sacrifices and killings of humans. Humans no matter how young or old, have the right to live a full life and everyone should respect that. However, some cultures believe that it is ok to kill innocent humans because their God had told them to. Even though this act would be ok for them, the rights given to us at birth tell us otherwise. Take the killing of Ikemefuna for example; he was a young child when he was given to Okonkwo after the killing of an Ibo woman by the Mbaino. He lived with Okonkwo and his family for three years until the oracle had given the order to kill him. They took him to the outside of the forest and attempted to kill him, but he managed to get away. He went to Okonkwo and said,” My father, they have killed me,” but all Okonkwo did be draw his machete and cut him down while “dazed with fear” (Achebe 61). This quote shows that the belief itself is in the wrong for nullifying the rights given to Ikemefuna at birth. He had the right to live and even lived with the tribe for three years, and then their God suddenly orders him to be killed. This is ethically wrong, but Okonkwo himself isn’t. It is his belief, and he was raised thinking that he would never be like his father and show weakness. Even though his relationship with Ikemefuna had gotten better, his beliefs would always come first, no matter how wrong it was. The belief itself had eliminated Okonkwo’s right to choose what he wanted to do, in this case, it would be to save Ikemefuna. Even though it would show weakness, he evidently wanted to save him or else he wouldn’t have been “dazed with fear. ” This point is also conveyed through the killing of twins in the Evil Forest. Obierika remembers when he and his wife had twin children after Okonkwo had accidentally killed Ezeudu’s son. He remembers how he had “thrown away” his twins and wonders “what crime had they committed,” (Achebe 125).
The irony of this quote is that even though they believe it is a crime, their cultural beliefs say otherwise. This shows once again how the cultural beliefs on one managed to become harmful by eliminating the rights of one. They are forced to abandon their right to choose with the result that the goddess’s wrath wouldn’t be “loosed on all the land and not just on the offender. ” Now, we have to understand what we should and shouldn’t do in order to protect these rights. In order to protect the rights of humans, we should use peaceful tactics, but only in the direst situations use force. Some people may disagree and say that if the rights of humans are being jeopardized, then immediate force is needed to take care of the problem. If we use immediate force instead of peaceful tactics, we would only cause more unnecessary conflict. Take the missionaries’ ways of converting the Ibo people. Converting others should be done with peace and respect for their culture, not by saying that their culture is wrong. At first, these missionaries are peaceful and only convert those who come to their church. However, when Mr. Smith becomes the leader, he has no respect for the Ibo culture and wants the converts to be the same. Mr. Smith “saw things in black and white” and thought that “black was evil” (Achebe 184). He didn’t believe in a peaceful way to convert the Ibo people, he only saw the Ibo culture as ‘evil’ and the Ibo people as people ‘locked in mortal conflict’. Due to this, his immediate action was to ‘save’ the people by making them have no respect for the culture itself. This led the people who still believed to retaliate by burning the church. Mr. Smith never thought of the consequences of his actions, and he paid the price. The Ibo had to protect their culture from the threat known as Mr. Smith, even if they jeopardized the missionaries’ and convert right to believe what they wanted.
However, no one was being harmed, so force shouldn’t have been the action taken to solve the problem. If we use force when the problem could be solved peacefully, it would only lead to more problems. This is shown when a while after the burning of the church, the District Commissioner took the six leaders of Umuofia and put them in jail. In the jail, they “were not given any water” and they “could not go out to urinate” (Achebe 195). Once again, the people didn’t think about the consequences of what they did, and because they took the forceful route over peace, they paid the price. They were beaten and insulted, and their rights were taken away. To be truthful, the world has a never-ending cycle of violence because people always take the forceful route over the peaceful one. It is a natural instinct that we humans have when our rights have been taken away. We should only use force in dire situations, such as the Libyan intrusion that was approved by the U. N. Security Council. They authorized “military action, including airstrikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery” in order to avert a “bloody rout. ” This is the type of situation that should require force because it is a threat to the people’s right to live. Any other situations, such as the ones stated above, should only require peaceful tactics to resolve it or it would only cause more unnecessary conflicts.
In the end, human beings should always respect the cultures of other countries. The only time that we judge any other cultures is when they begin to be harmful to others. By harmful, I mean by jeopardizing the rights of others. There are so many meaningless conflicts in the world today that could be avoided, but our inability to use non-forceful ways to deal with them only makes it worse. There’s racism, problems with homosexuality, judgment through a person’s background, or even petty things like a person’s money. Everyone is different in some way, and sadly the human race is too ignorant to realize that everyone is still equal. It is a human right, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that all humans are born equal. If this is true, then isn’t our whole world one big contradiction? We all say that everyone should maintain and keep their rights, but people are continuously having this right taken away, not to mention also that this right is probably the second most important right for people. In some way, we’re all self-righteous, and sadly we will always be this way. It’s our human nature which cannot be swayed by the right of them.
Chapters Analysis of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- Okonkwo can be violent and very quick tempered, as shown by “He has a slight stammer and whenever he was angry and could not get his words out quickly enough he would use his fists. ”(4) This quote shows us he is quick to anger and how he thinks that his fists can solve everything. Okonkwo is also hardworking. His father is depicted as lazy and careless which is the complete opposite of Okonkwo. It said in the book that Okonkwo came to hate everything his father loved, which included the flute. His father’s lazy and carelessness affected him by making him hard working and driven.
- I think that the proverb “ proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten” means that proverbs are very significant in Igbo culture. Palm oil is an important ingredient that is used for cooking, making palm-wine and fuel in this book. Proverbs are equally as important and among the Ibo “the art of conversation is regarded very highly”(7), the language of the Ibo people is very formal and regarded as an art form, it shows a sign of respect.
- The Igbo are afraid of night as it holds a “vague terror for those people, even the bravest among them”(9) The people fear evil spirits and dangerous animals, such as snakes. Instead of calling snakes by its name they call them “strings” because they believe that they can hear you when you call it by its name.
- The cause of the conflict with Mbaino is that some men of Mbaino had murdered a woman from Umuofia when she was at a Mbino marketplace. That woman was the wife of Ogbuefi Udo. They take Ikemefuna so they can sacrifice him instead of starting a war between the two clans.
- Okonkwo doesn’t like his son because he had “incipient laziness”(13) and reminded him of his father, whom he hates.
- Being raised by a community can make you more open-minded because you have all these perspectives and opinions from the people around you. Although being raised like this can also cause you to have less freedom because everyone is constantly watching out for you.
- In this culture, women are either housewives or in a position of great power, such as the priestess, there is no in between.
- When drinking palm-wine the eldest of the group drinks first, and then everyone else drinks. After, the eldest calls for his wives and the first wife has to drink first. They take a knee when they sip, and when they are done drinking they go away.
- Sharecropping is when someone, usually of higher rank, share seeds for a person’s crop. They divide the crops depending on how many people helped with the crops.
- Women usually were only allowed to grow cocoyams, beans and cassavas. The men were the ones who grew yams, as they were considered the “king of crops”. (23)5. Okonkwo remained positive and patient throughout the drought, even though he couldn’t grow any yams. He did not expect to grow a thousand yams for the first time, and knew he would eventually grow a lot of crops.
- Okonkwo is very hardworking and dedicated. He had nothing, and was in poverty from the moment he was born. Instead of feeling sorry for himself he decided that he was going to make something of himself. He is also, however violent and shortempered and often beats his wife and children.
- This proverb means that your life is in your hands, and that only you can decide who you want to be. If you want to do something, and you are dedicated to it, nothing can stop you.
- Their relationship is very strained as Nwoye reminds Okonkwo of his father, because they are both lazy. He often beats him and reprimands him.
- Okonkwo beats his wife during the week of peace, something that is not allowed. It tells me that the Ibo are very religious people, and highly respect their Gods and ancestors.
- The customs have changed because back then, if you disrupted the peace they would get “dragged through the ground through the village until he died. ”(31) They eventually stopped the custom because it meant “spoiling the peace it was meant to preserve. ”(31) In some clans it is an “abomination to die during the week of peace. ”(31)
- The village rain-maker can not stop the rain nor start it because it would be dangerous “to his own health”(34) and trying to change the weather extremely would be “far too great for the human frame”(34).
- Although Okonkwo doesn’t hate feasts, he doesn’t particularly like them either. He feels “uncomfortable sitting around for days”(17) and would much rather be “working on his farm. ”(17)2. Ekwefi used to be the village beauty many years ago, and fell in love with Okonkwo after he threw The Cat in a wrestling match. She couldn’t marry him then because he was too poor to pay her bride price. Ekwefi loves wrestling matches and can be very bold, like when she got beat and told Okonkwo about his guns “that never shot”(39).
- In my opinion, I think that it is a very sad practice because the mothers can not properly love their child in fear of it being an ogbanje. They can only be sure it is not an evil spirit once it lives past a certain age and even then they fear it is an ogbanje. To me, it must be really hard seeing so many of your children die over and over again.
- Chielo is the priestess of Agbala and the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. She is friends with Ekwefi and is very fond of her daughter, Ezinma. She affectionately calls Ezinma “my daughter. In her ordinary life, she is a widow and has two children. People who see Chielo in her daily life can barely believe that she is the same person who prophesize things when the “spirit of the Agbala was upon her”(49).
- Nwoye now acts like a man because he now does “masculine’ tasks like splitting wood and pounding food. When he receives a message through his younger siblings he “grumbles about women and their troubles. ”(52)
- Okonkwo associates being violent with being masculine. Nwoye knows it’s “right” but prefers to listen to his mother’s stories of the “tortoise and his wily ways”(53). To please his father Nwoye acts like he no longer enjoys those types of stories, and listens to his father’s stories of war and bloodshed instead.
- The people are very excited because locusts have not come to Umuofia for a long time and only the elders remember them. When they arrive, they begin collecting them and eating them as they are a rare delicacy.
- Okonkwo is asked not to take part because he had grown attached to Ikemefuna and thinks of him as a son. Ogbuefi Ezeudu tells him that because Ikemefuna calls him father, he wants Okonkwo to have “nothing to do with it”(57). I think they chose to kill Ikemefuna because that was the original plan. He was taken from from his clan because some people from Mbaino killed a girl. They are killing him so there is no war. I feel like Achebe doesn’t translate the song because it would lose its meaning and sincerity. Okonkwo acts that way because he has twisted ideas of what a man is. He thinks that being weak is not “masculine” and kills Ikemefuna instead of trying to save him.
- Okonkwo admires Ekwefi but wishes she was born a boy, as he thinks that she has the characteristics of a man. He thinks to himself “she should’ve been a boy. ”(64)
- The custom of trying to convince the parents with money or presents makes it seem as if women are a piece of meat instead of their own person. I feel like it makes the women feel like they don’t have self worth and that they don’t have the right to choose what they or who they want. I think that women are thought to be marriageable at a young age because they are seen as “developed”, and are able to reproduce.
- White men are introduced into the story by making fun of a man that has leprosy. Maybe they think that white men don’t have any toes because maybe they know that they cover their feet with shoes. The men make the white man seem like weird, alien like creatures.
- Ekwefi really loves her daughter Ezinma because she is the only child of hers she has given birth to that has survived after a certain age. She has had several children but none of them lived as long as Ezinma has. Ekwefi does not think of Ezinma as her daughter, instead their relationship is a “companionship of equals”(77). Throwing away children is one of the negative aspects of the Igbo culture.
- 2 Achebe does not validate nor disvalidate the belief of ogbanje. The only thing he does is give details on what is done and does not put his personal opinion in.
- The women of the clan seem to have a lot of respect for the egwugwu ceremony. The egwugwu are terrifying to the women, even though they are just men wearing costumes, they seem to be more than men once they don the costumes. The purpose of the ceremony is to maintain a level of fear and respect to their Gods in the Ibo society. Controversial topics are usually resolved by using the ceremony because many of the people in the clan believe that it is the only way to properly solve an argument. Evil forest refutes Usowulu’s argument by asking him “what kind of lover sleeps with a pregnant woman?”(91). Having families involved in our marriage allows a lot of women to always have people to turn to if they are not being treated very well, but at the same time a lot of involvement in their lives can negatively affect a relationship.
- The moral of the fable of the tortoise is to stop people from becoming selfish. That the selfish acts you commit will eventually catch up to you. The fable tells you to not trick others for your own gain because in the end you will be the only one who truly suffers. Generosity and selflessness are all a big part of this tale. The incident with the priestess shows us how much respect the people have to their Gods. The Ibo people greatly value tradition and remain very true to it. Their Gods are whole-heartedly followed with no questions asked.
- The bride and groom’s families compliment each other and the grooms side of the family are expected to give gifts to the bride’s side. The father of the bride’s brother says “let there be friendship between their family and ours”(117). This shows us the bond between the in-laws and how strong it can be.
- Okonkwo accidentally killed someone at a funeral. The person happened to be the dead man’s son. This incident is so serious because the man whose funeral it was, was a deeply respected person and was the oldest man in the village. It is a crime against the earth goddess to ‘Kill a clansman”(124) and, the punishment for that was exilement.
- Okonkwo is like a fish out of water because he was taken from his element, which is his village. He does not have anything that makes him great anymore, he left that in his home. Like a fish out of water, Okonkwo feels like he can not survive the next seven years.
- His lack of understanding makes it seem as if he is a child. A child who still has much to learn about the world around him.
- What happened in Abame perfectly sums up the experience of colonization because it is exactly was colonization is. The colonizers first come into the land. They try to appear peaceful and attempt to persuade the villagers by acting kindly to obtain whatever it is that they want. If it does not work out for them, that’s when they would start using force if necessary.
- Okonkwo had heard of many stories of the white men before. For example, he had heard that the white men had made the “powerful guns and the strong drinks. ”(141) Okonkwo also heard a story of a village being wiped out by the “white men and their followers. ”(139)
- Nwoye chose to become a Christian because the beliefs of the religion greatly aligned with his personal beliefs. He doesn’t like the idea of sacrificing people, such as when Ikemefuna was killed. When Ikemefuna was killed Nwoye felt something had “ given way inside him. “(62) And I believe that’s when he started resenting some aspects of his religion. Christianity prohibited sacrifices so he converted.
- The missionary tells the Igbo people that he will “bring many iron horses”(145) and that some of the people will “ride the iron horses themselves”(145). This gains the interest of many of the Igbo people. What also gains their interest, and elicits a positive response is when the missionary tells them that the white men will “live among them. ”
- Nwoye’s personal beliefs about religion reflects the beliefs of Christianity, at least that’s what I believe. It is why it appealed to him, he found a religion he could wholeheartedly follow.
- The Igbo gave them them a plot of land in the “evil forest. ” Their plan was to get rid of the men with the “sinister forces and powerful darkness”(148) that lived there. The white men however, were grateful and thought that they were just being kind.
- The Evil Forest was supposed to be the Igbos way of getting rid of them. They thought that they would be “dead within four days”(149) and happily gave them the land. Once four days passed and the Christians didn’t die the people started to be convinced by the missionaries, and some converted.
- The only thing that fire leaves in its wake are ashes, and the ashes are described as “impotent” (153) meaning they are useless. In the metaphor, Okonkwo’s passion and ruthlessness is the living fire, and what has become of his life is the unimportant ash. I think this metaphor is saying that sometimes your passion and intensity can leave you feeling cold and nothing.
- I personally think they weren’t introduced because they were not necessary. It was only until Achebe introduced the missionaries to us that they were important, because they accepted everybody, even the outcasts.
- One of Okonkwo’s oldest family member fears that because of Christianity, men can now choose to abandon their family and everyone they hold dear and lose their “fathers and his brothers. ”(167) He believes they can curse the “gods of his fathers and ancestors”(167). Because of Christianity, he fears for the members of the clan.
- The British handles conflict and crime in another way, that is much different than the Igbo way. They have prisons while in the Igbo society, if you perform a crime, you get banished from your clan. They also believe in one God, while the Igbo worship multiple Gods and deities.
- They were happy, and welcomed the British because they had built a trading store. Things like palm-oil and kernels soon became greatly valued, and in turn it much “money flowed into Umuofia”(178). The British brought wealth, so some of the people didn’t hate them like Okonkwo did. They decided to let them stay because they didn’t think they were that bad.
Chapters Summary of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
In the book “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe the main character Okonkwo is depicted as a wealthy, and strong, man of honor. Well known throughout the nine villages due to his personal achievements. He is a very productive farmer. Though he is highly respected, his thoughts and treatment of women seem to be Arrogant and cruel. In my opinion he is rude, bad-tempered, and hardheaded. Okonkwo’s father was depicted as a lazy, deadbeat, weak, debtor, drinker, feminine, lazy and improvident man. All tirats that affected him powerfully. “In his day he was lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow. ” who owed every neighbour some money, from a few cowries to a significant amounts. Achebe describes the custom of serving a kola without explaining it most likely because it is an ancient ritual that the people in Umuofia have been doing that goes back centuries and centuries where someone of great power started it and everyone kept the tradition going. Achebe talks about the importance of conversation in the Igbo society when he says “ “proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten. ” he gives an example of palm oil to strengthen his point because palm-oil is one of the most versatile of all vegetable oils. Mainely used in cooking to not only provide flavor but to prevent the food from burning.
They are terrified of the night. Due to there fear of evil spirits and dangerous animals. “Darkness held a vague terror for these people, even the bravest among them. ” They are so afraid of snakes that they don’t even use the word snake instead they replace it with string. “A snake was never called by its name at night, because it would hear. It was called a string. ” One day a Mbaino man killed and Igb women while she was at market. “He told Umuofia how their daughter had gone to market at Mbaino and had been killed. ” The Mbaino wanted to avoid war with the Umuofia people, so resolve the issue they gave umuofia the son of the man who killed the woman and virgin. “An ultimatum was immediately dispatched to Mbaino asking them to choose between war – on the one hand, and on the other the offer of a young man and a virgin as compensation. ” Ikemefuna was taken as compensation for his father killing the Umuofia women. As an ultimatum to prevent the umuofia and Mbaino people from going to war. Okonkwo wanted to be the exact opposite of his father because he was ashamed of his weakness and failure. He overcompensate by being hard on his wives and children, being the strongest warrior in the whole village, and by trying to gain more of the village’s titles. All of which his father never did. His father never had any title so he never grew up with a farm like the other men in Umuofia, nothing was just given to him which is unusual in their culture. Okonkwo has an arrogant attitude toward women as if they are not worth more than doing house work and making children. He dislikes his son Nwoye so much because he has too much of his grandfather’s character traits. “Okonkwo’s first son, Nwoye, was then twelve years old but was already causing his father great anxiety for his incipient laziness. ”
In their culture, the priestess of Agbala is feared and she even has more power than all the men, and for a society that doesn’t see women as equals that is very surprising. Familiarity with rank is seen in the drinking of the palm wine in light of the fact that Okonkwo drinks first. At that point, the oldest men. The wives are the last to drink. “The first cup went to Okonkwo, who must taste his wine before anyone else. Then the group drank, beginning with the eldest man. ” This implies age decides rank, with the exception of Okonkwo due to his numerous achievements. Okonkwo is relied upon to help accommodate for his family. Which implies he needs to accommodate his dad, which infuriates him. Men and women in their society are treated differently. Men were in charge of yam “the king of crops” whereas women were in charge of less import crops. “His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops, like coco-yams, beans, and cassava. Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crop. “He claims that after surviving the “worst year in living memory”, he can endure anything. “Okonkwo had begun to sow with the first rains. He had sown four hundred seeds when the rains dried up and the heat returned. . . He changed them everyday, and prayed that the rain might fall in the night. But the drought continued for eight market weeks and the yams were killed. “
Okonkwo comes from poverty and misfortune yet he rose above all of it and now holds 3 out of the 4 titles the umuofia society have. Though like most he has his flaws. He is cruel and severe towards less effective men. Which stems from his hatred of his father. He tells a man without even looking at him, “this meeting is for men” since he didn’t have any titles. Okonkwo considered him a lady. At the beginning ikemefuna was afraid of okonkwo so he tried to run away twice. When ikemefuna was introduced he was a positive influence in okonkwo’s son Nwoye life, which made Nwoye more masculine. Which was something that okonkwo was really glad about. As you read you start to see that Okonkwo really cared about Ikemefuna but did not want to show his affection towards him because he saw it as a sign of weakness. Ikemefuna eventually cares for okonkwo and starts calling him father. During the week of peace okonkwo beat his wife because she forgot to cook, doing this during “sacred week” (week of peace) is frowned upon which lead to him bring to the shrine of Ani one she-goat, one hen, a length of cloth, and a hundred cowries. In order to be reprimanded.
“Okonkwo could never become as enthusiastic over feasts as most people. ” Okonkwo was a man who loved to work, which is why he never really liked feasts mainly because when the time came around there wasn’t much work for him to do “But he was always uncomfortable sitting around for days waiting for a feast or getting over it. He would be very much happier working on his farm. ” Ekwefi is Okonkwo’s second wife. Who once was the village beauty. But left it all when she ran away from her husband when she fell in love with okonkwo when he won the wrestling tournament against cat “Many years ago when she was the village beauty Okonkwo had won her heart by throwing the Cat in the greatest contest within living memory. ” They’ve been married since then and her daughter Ezinma is the only one of their ten children that survived. Ekwefi herself is a pretty nice and nurturing person.
Chielo plays a huge role in the village because she is first used as an ancient story “She was the priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. She was a widow with two kids in ordinary life. ”
Why do you suppose they have decided to kill the boy? Why do you think Achebe does not translate the song that Ikemefuna remembers as he walks along? Why does Okonkwo act as he does?Ever since ikemefuna was brought into Nwoye’s life he has been showing more manlier characteristics. He has stopped whining and crying when things don’t go his way and in okonkwo’s eyes he has stopped resembling his grandfather. Okonkwo associate with manliness with “expressing disdain for women and their concerns. ” and with violence and terror. “He frequently invites the two into his obi to listen to violent, masculine stories. ” “The village excitedly collects them because they are good to eat when cooked”. Okonkwo’s idea of masculinity is a strong, well-built man who is a great wrestler, farmer, hunter, and warrior. The locusts are a rare beauty of earth “They come once in a generation and will return every year for seven years before disappearing for another lifetime. ” Ezeudu visits Okonkwo and informed him that the Oracle has decreed that Ikemefuna must be killed. He tells Okonkwo not to take part in the boy’s death, as Ikemefuna calls him “father. ”
Ekwefi tends to prize her daughter Ezinma so highly as she is the only child from her 10 children to survive. She and Okonkwo believed her children were an ogbanje. “Ogbanje”: a changeling, – a child who repeatedly dies and returns to its mother to be reborn. It is almost impossible to bring up an ogbanje child without it dying”. Ezinma’s survival makes her mom finally feel blessed and complete. Therefore, she cherishes her daughter Ezinma very highly. “Ezinma was an only child and the center of her mother’s world. ” Further, more than just a mother-daughter bond, they also share a best friend kind of bond which makes Ezinma hold an extremely special place in her mom’s heart. The attitude towards children it reflects, is that children are hard to maintain and are to be taken care of. You must value your children instead of regretting it later on. I assume this is because Ezinma was not only the daughter of Ekwefi she was like a sister/friend, but on the other hand, Okonkwo, even though she was his favourite, and reminded her of his mother as well as Ikemefuna, he wouldn’t admit his love for her but rather holds on to his pride, ego and “manliness. ” Although, after hearing that she might die, he’s suddenly putting in effort to express his love for her and is trying everything he could to possible stop her death. Okonkwo had a certain mindset which stopped him from showing Ezinma love and support. (“Although Ezinma is probably Okonkwo’s favorite child, he adheres very strictly to the norms of male and female action ascribed by Igbo culture. He does not allow Ezinma to do something as simple as carrying a chair to the festival for him because he considers it a boy’s task. Sadly, Okonkwo’s strict following of gender roles prevents him from showing his affection for his daughter. ”)
Achebe seems to validate his belief in the ogbanje because he describes Ezinma’s story about finding her iyi-uwa as something the entire tribe is concerned about. He also keeps the ogbanje going throughout the whole novel, making it sort of a “trend. ” He wrote the story making Ekwefi have ten children, and then made it a point that nine of them died due to the ogbanje belief. Further, he emphasizes on the fact that for Ezinma to survive, certain “rituals” must be followed through with. Therefore, we believe that he does validate his belief in it.
The villagers were very scared of the egwugwu “A women fled as soon as an egwugwu came in sight” the children would yell simply observing their appearance. There were 9 egwugwu which represented the nine villages, they all had come to listen and weight in a decision between the quarrel of a husband and the brothers of his wife. During the feud the wives brothers say that their sisters husband Uzowulu beat her until she had a miscarriage but, Uzowulu says “it is a lie. She miscarried after she had gone to sleep with her lover” and then the evil forest refute his argument by saying “what kind of lover sleeps with a pregnant woman?”. Having whole families involved in the marriage between two people can be really risky and even bring the marriage to an end because the family will always judge the non family member as to an American marriage where it’s simply 2 people and you have no one judging you which doesn’t add on to any stress. There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to living with family the disadvantage is that you’ll have someone always interfering in a personal matter but the advantage is you’ll always have someone to help.
What does the incident involving the priestess of Agbala reflect about the values of the culture? The moral of the fable of the tortoise is that one shall not lie just get its way. In the tale the tortoise lied to the birds that he was a changed man just to go to the fest in the sky but once he got to the sky he ate all the food and went to back to his cunning ways as for the birds they took their feathers back and the tortoise was left in the sky and had asked the parrot to tell his wife to bring out all the soft things they had so he can fall. But the parrot was so mad that he told the tortoise wife to bring out the hard things making the tortoise fall and break his shell.
During the uri ceremony the importance of family is emphasized due to the offerings given to the whole family and when the bride’s mother leads the way during the ceremony. ”It was the day on which her suitor (having already paid the greater part of her bride-price) would bring palm-wine not only to her parents and immediate relatives but to the wide and extensive group of kinsmen called umunna. ”
Okonkwo is responsible for spilling the blood of many men and has only got praise for it. Though this time that won’t be an option. “Killing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess”. The punishment for a crime this bad is harsh. “According to the mandates of tradition, the men from Ezeudu’s quarter burn Okonkwo’s buildings and kill his animals to cleanse the village of his sin. ”
The significance of comparing Okonkwo with a fish out of water is that fish can’t work outside of their natural environment. After a brief time, they can no longer live, and they die. Okonkwo feels like he can’t understand and he is the odd man in another town. Okonkwo’s absence of comprehension of the significance of ladies ponders his perspectives. He doesn’t understand women are essential and are justified regardless of a specific cost. He additionally doesn’t understand the significance of the ladies saving their virginity for marriage.
The story of the destruction of Abame summarize the experience of colonization since they had no way out truly. The white men came to their territory, either murdered them or changed over them, and assumed control. “We have heard stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas, but no one thought the stories were true. ” The people of Abame had been cautioned that white men would come and assume control and something awful would occur yet they believe the stories were fake, only once it was to late did they realize it was true. The two are totally unfamiliar to one another and since the colonizers are in the place that is known for the Africans, the Africans ridicule them and their dialect. Okonkwo says that you don’t upset a quiet man and believes that those of Abame are absurd. He trusts that they are crazy people because of the manner in which they discuss one God.
Concepts of Masculinity and Femininity
The sociology of gender examines how society influences our understandings and notion of differences among masculinity (what society deems suitable conduct for a “man”) and femininity (what society deems appropriate behavior for a “woman”). We examine how this, in turn, influences identification and social practices. We pay unique focus at the strong relationships that comply with from the installed gender order in a given society, in addition to how this changes over time. Sexuality is distinct again; its miles about sex appeal, sexual practices, and identity. Just as sex and gender don’t continually align, neither does gender nor sexuality. Human beings can discover alongside a wide spectrum of sexualities from heterosexual, to homosexual or lesbian, to bisexual, to queer, and so forth. Asexuality is a time period used whilst people do not experience sexual enchantment.
A few asexual people might nevertheless shape romantic relationships without sexual contact. The essentialist ideas that humans attach to man and lady exist simplest due to this cultural records. This consists of the misguided thoughts that sex: · Is pre-determined inside the womb;· defined by anatomy which in turn determines sexual identity and choice;· differences are all linked to reproductive features;· Identities are immutable; and that· Deviations from dominant thoughts of male/female need to be “unnatural. ”Buying all blue or crimson, making sure the boy could have vans and military guys, and best dolls or tiny kitchens for the female they’re starting the gender function socialization procedure proper away. Gender roles and inequality begin at one of these young ages and is gift throughout someone’s life not handiest with the aid of their circle of relatives and buddies, but also in the media, place of job, and politics. In recent years, gender norms were slowly breaking down. With greater girls operating outside of the houses, men are now not the sole breadwinners of the family. In a brand new report, researchers examined the role of gender norms today for males and females. In the article, ‘Men are stuck’ in gender roles, data suggest by Emily Alpert Reyes, the imbalance or bias on gender roles against men are reviewed.
For one, men who prefer to be househusbands are taken less seriously than women who enter fields dominated by men. The differences in opinion by society when addressing a female or a male heavily progress and the wants of men who just want to do what they want. For one, males should only be within the masculine gender while females can dabble in either masculine or feminine gender roles. “If a little girl is running around on the baseball team with her mitt, people think, ‘That’s a strong girl,’” said her husband, Matt Duron, who, like his wife, uses a pen name to shield the boy’s identity. “When my 6-year-old is running around in a dress, people think there’s something wrong with him. ” (Emily Alpert Reyes). They located that despite the fact that gender norms aren’t as anymore; guys are still very plenty caught of their gender norms. “If girls call themselves tomboys, it’s with a sense of pride,” said the University of Illinois at Chicago sociology professor Barbara Risman. “But boys make fun of other boys if they step just a little outside the rigid masculine stereotype. ” (Reyes)Men are also pathetic when they fall into conflicts about whom they are and who they are supposed to be, while women seem to find their roles a bit more easily. No one would have expected this some decades ago, and the reason is less the rise of the feminist movement than the fact that men are permanently stuck in a variety of sexual/gender roles stemming from our past history. Men are pathetic and depressed; women seek help for depression but men do not. That is because seeking help is not deemed masculine. People often think men dislike independent women; actually, they fear them. They are a reproach to men, they represent what men cannot do and be. I do not know if anyone will take me seriously here. But I personally, although a misanthrope of sorts, do find men less interesting than women. For instance, 57 percent of young men in the U. S. say that society tells them that “a man who talks a lot about his worries, fears, and problems shouldn’t really get respect. ” But only 30 percent of those same young men personally hold this opinion.
Every day, at least three boys commit suicide in the U. S. , according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Males dominate suicide statistics and it is no coincidence they are the gender more likely to suppress emotions. They resort to violence or extreme behaviors, desperate to express themselves, yet unable to fit the stereotype of what it means to be “a real man. ” The frustration can quickly build, fester, and ultimately manifest into shame and humiliation. (Suicide Statistics) Speech by UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson at a special event for the “HeForShe” campaign, United Nations Headquarters, She said that “Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too…, she said again that, “ I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho”—in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49 years of age; eclipsing road accidents, cancer, and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either. ” (Emma Watson: Gender equality is your issue too). To conclude we can say that, men are stuck in gender roles too, when it comes to gender progress, said Ronald F. Levant, editor of the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, “men are stuck. ” (Dr. Ronald F. Levant). Men are stuck, not only females they have to face situations if you are sad depressed people will say “be a man, suck it up, and don’t cry”. I’m a man I face these situations every day, no one can understand the way you feel.
The Issue of Strength and Manliness in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
“Strength, fortitude, or hardiness traditionally associated with men as opposed to women or children” defines the word manliness as well as the Nigerians way of life in the late nineteenth century. If you were a man during this time you would work your whole life to become the most masculine man around and if you were a woman, you would live your life to marry and serve this man. The main hero, Okonkwo in “Things Fall Apart” is considered the epitome of manliness, yet he fears that the public eye will view him as “weak”. Okonkwo wants his masculinity to be understood by all and never be questioned but placing too much emphasis on manliness leads to his world falling apart.
Okonkwo dedicates his whole life to masculinity as did many men in nineteenth century Nigeria. Growing up in this country as a young man meant everything must line up with your tribes view on manliness to obtain respect from your peers. Okonkwo learned at a young age that “his father was agbala … another name for a woman” or an insult towards a man with no title. This information gives him a passion “to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved”. This new-found rage towards his father’s failures sparks a match underneath him. He begins to do everything in his power to be thought of as the strongest and most masculine man around. This image becomes so important to Okonkwo that he does absolutely everything he can to prevent anyone thinking otherwise. This intense determination helps Okonkwo “wash his hands” of his father’s gentleness and “eat with kings”. This shows that his tribe puts one’s manliness before all else and the only way a child of an agbala can gain fame or attention is to completely throw away their old life and build a new one. Washing his hands of his father’s past shows Okonkwo’s desperation to earn a name in the tribe. Earning this name brought him friendships with the kings and acceptance from the Gods. This acceptance brings him the opportunity to take in Ikemefuna, the doomed boy who was sacrificed to the village, as an adopted son.
Okonkwo does not accept any type of failure or weakness even when it comes to his own family. This unacceptance leads him to kill his own adopted son, Ikemefuna, with a machete because “he is afraid of being thought weak” by those watching him. This is the beginning of Okonkwo’s fall, he could not eat or sleep for days, and he could only think of the violence he has committed towards his family. Although he felt this great pain inside him, Okonkwo never for a second regrets what he has done to his adopted son because he believes it has helped his image as a man; instead, he considers himself an “old shivering woman” for still thinking of the murder he has committed. This shows that Okonkwo’s concept of masculinity is so twisted that he is willing to hurt or even kill those he loves to maintain his image. What Okonkwo does not realize is that “he will pay a price because he places too much emphasis on strength and manliness”. His eldest son Nwoye always seemed to struggle with his masculinity because his father forced it on him so harshly. Nwoye wanted to please his father by being a traditional manly son until he sees who his father truly is. When he realized that Ikemefuna is dead “something seemed to give away inside him, like the snapping of a tightened bow” and “the boy was afraid of” his own father. Throughout the novel, Nwoye is pushed by his father to be strong and manly just like him but when his string finally snaps so does his desire to live up to his dad’s wishes.
Nwoye begins to act himself again as a gentler and more sensitive young man instead of continuing to falsely advertise manliness in front of his father. Nwoye and Okonkwo never saw eye to eye on how to be a man which ultimately brings their relationship to an end. Nwoye is never able to forgive his father for the damage he has done by killing his adopted brother, Ikemefuna. The fear and betrayal felt from Okonkwo brought him to seek other welcoming communities. The missionaries gave him the sense of happiness and he was “attracted to the new faith on the very first day” but “he dared not go to close to them for fear of his father”. After Nwoye is spotted with the Cristian’s, Okonkwo is overcome with fury and grips him by the neck until he had no choice but to let him go. Nwoye walked away and never returned not fully understanding what he was doing “but he was happy to leave his father”. Nwoye’s interest in the new faith is not fully understood within himself yet he still leaves his family to pursue it meaning this can also be seen as an attempt to get back at his father for hurting his family. The lose of Okonkwo’s eldest son is another huge step towards his major fall due to the importance of masculinity in his life.Not only did Okonkwo begin to lose his family, but he also began to lose the respect of his tribe. After Okonkwo moves back to his land after seven years away he sees that the “clan has undergone such profound change during his exile that it is barely recognizable”. As he returned Okonkwo expected a grand and memorable entrance back in to the tribe, but people’s minds were too focused on the new government and religion. Even the men who still thought of this religion and government as evil couldn’t think of anything else especially Okonkwo’s anticipated return to the clan. Okonkwo is unable to understand and accept the changes within the tribe and “he mourned for the warlike men of Umuofia who had unaccountably become soft like women”. He wanted to take action and kill everyone who was trying to come in his way of the life he grew up with and could not believe his clan did not feel the same way. As soon as the men returned from being locked up by the District Commissioner, Okonkwo got a sense of excitement because he was expecting a war to begin. He swore vengeance and if his clan “chose to be cowards he would go out and avenge himself”. No one in his tribe wanted to start a war with the white men and Okonkwo did not want to accept this so when the messengers came to stop their gathering he killed the lead messenger. He expected excitement to fill the air but instead, everyone began questioning what he had just done and let the rest of the white men walk away. In this moment, Okonkwo realizes that the masculine reputation he has fought and lost so much for no longer has the same meaning. He later commits suicide showing that he no longer has anything else to live for when his strength and manliness is not held at such high honor anymore.
This “story of Okonkwo is in a way the story of our culture; he pays a price because he places too much emphasis on strength and manliness”. This relates to our culture in many ways especially when it comes to fathers not accepting their gay sons. Sadly, just as Okonkwo’s clan associate’s strength and manliness with the titles they achieve, our culture often associates strength and manliness with being straight. Just like Okonkwo, many men today live their life to be seen as a masculine man and put so much emphasis on that desire that they begin to push away the good in their life. When these men become fathers to gay sons they often do not accept them as their own and feel as though they failed in their masculinity. Although “gay men are seen to break traditional masculinity ideology” it does not make them any less manly and their fathers do not see that. Similar to Nwoye, gay men are no less of a man just because they do not fit the traditional strength associated with a man and similar to Okonkwo these dads do not see it that way. They see their son’s coming out as a defeat on their manliness and therefore they push them away rather than seeing the good in their bravery and courage making them stronger than most men in our world. This newfound broken relationship in their lives often brings sadness and pain into their world leading to them paying the ultimate price for placing too much emphasis on things that should not matter.
Placing too much emphasis on masculinity ultimately leads to a mans fall within family, friends, and society. Okonkwo and fathers today have a desire to become strong which in the end makes them weak. Next time you are deciding one’s strength and manliness do not think of the traditional values associated with men placed in your head by society but think of the qualities that makes that man live the happiest life they can live.
Analysis of the “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
Inside the culture of the Igbo, intricate storytelling is a cherished art form and a fundamental collaborative device. The younger ones gain knowledge through their ancestors’ past by attending their mother’s late night fireside stories, and members of the clan see communal values through stories expressed over and over at tribe meetings. Moreover, stories tie the Igbo individuals as a network, however in the hands of others, outsiders, stories and proverbs are the exact things that destroy the clan and its beliefs.
In Things Fall Apart, the noteworthiness of network and connection is underscored through various proverbs. Okonkwo’s uncle Uchendu said that family is more valuable than money and it is connection that isolates people from creatures. He emphasizes his point with a proverb: ― “An animal rubs its itching flank against a tree, a man asks his kinsman to scratch him” (Chapter 19). Uchendu celebrates family in a very similar way as the Christians celebrate brotherhood, by proclaiming that every person in the family must help each other out. He believes that the support a family gives one another is the defining characteristic of humanity. Hence why, without family or respect for one’s family, you might as well be an animal. The association of one person to another or the connection between the individual and his/her community is along these lines communicated. Once more, the unity of the community is given even in this proverb with a notice: ― “If one finger brought oil it soiled the others” (Chapter 13). Since a single droplet of oil may soil the entire proximity – or community in this case- with its pollution, Achebe shows that it is not only in words but also in actions that Ibos follow these lessons.
The fact that people are not superior to their community is demonstrated when Okonkwo is seriously dismissed for breaking the Week of Peace and is expelled from Umuofia for murdering a clansman, as these sorts of actions put the entire community in grave threat i.e. the anger of Ani, the Earth goddess. Faith in the goddess, Ani was in this way a successful technique to guarantee knowledge and wisdom in the community. Despite the fact that Ibos set collective welfare and community sentiment above all, they gave extreme significance to a man’s individual achievements and accomplishments. This is featured through various sayings: ―”if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings” (Chapter 1),―”a man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness” (Chapter 3), ―”the lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did” (Chapter 3), in Umuofian society, if an individual removes the footprints of his or her ancestors, he or her can aspire to do anything. Such an example was when Okonkwo gained respect after he left his father’s ways and became a fierce warrior.
Furthermore, an another similarly – featured proverb implied that ―”when a man says yes his chi says yes also” (Chapter 4), Okonkwo said yes very strongly, so his chi agreed, and so forth. The proverb about chi underlines the way that ―”among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father” (Chapter 1). This proverb implies the criticalness of dedication, will power and perseverance to prevail throughout life. At the end of the day, the proverb appears to valorize individual effort for progress. Achebe illustrates these proverbs through the character of Okonkwo who prevails in life by dint of his devotion and determination in life. While people’s – such as Okonkwo’s – individual achievements are vital parts of Ibo life and culture, Ibos likewise maintain the standards of tolerance and adaptability. The versatility of Ibo culture is proposed by the proverb: ―”Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching” (Chapter 3). Interdependence, social harmony and equality appear to be recommended by the saying: ―”Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other, let his wing break” (Chapter 3).
The symbolistic approach utilized in this proverb is to explain that amongst the weaker and stronger individuals- Described as the kite and the eagle, respectively-, one should treat others equally, if not, let bad luck befall them. When Enoch, a changed over Christian, carried out the wrongdoing of unmasking an egwugwu out in the open, all the masked egwugwu of Umuofia gathered in the marketplace. In the wake of wrecking Enoch’s compound, they moved towards the Church keeping in mind the end goal to annihilate it as they thought it to be the best way to pacify the soul of the clan. Before destroying the Church, an egwugwu exhibits the feeling of uniformity and democracy proposed by the proverb about the kite and the eagle when he says to Mr. Smith, a Christian Reverend: -”You can stay with us if you like our ways. You can worship your own god. It is good that a man should worship the god and the spirits of his fathers. Go back to your house so that you may not be hurt” (Chapter 22). Achebe evidently demonstrates that these individuals who have survived through learning and adapting to “fly without perching”, will certainly be left with no place to perch as the colonial government takes over. Accordingly, these proverbs don’t merely improve the magnificence of the language, but they also influence the readers to comprehend the value of the culture that was broken during process of colonialism.
In addition to the proverbs, for the Igbo, the storytellers that pulls one in and the stories that resonate for you show your values. The deterioration of the community can be followed to the way that the Igbo envision the white individuals as negligible “fairy-tales”. Rather than appreciating accounts of the Europeans’ approach as factual reports, the news of their own inescapable colonization strikes the Igbo as a marvelous story. As the tribe’s older folks of Mbanta present, one claims that, though they heard ” ‘stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas,’ no one thought the stories were true” (Chapter 15). Uchendu, Okonkwo’s thoughtful uncle, reacts, “‘There is no story that is not true.’ ” The Igbo tell stories to order their reality and to credit meaning to specific occasions. But the tale of the white individuals isn’t a story they have woven, whose meanings they can control. The vast majority of the Igbo individuals can’t incorporate the fantastical story of the Europeans into their worldview since it lies so far outside their frame of reference- this was evidently emphasized in the 15th Chapter, when the villagers had labelled a bicycle used by the white individual as an “Iron Horse”, therefore demonstrating the fact that the Igbo people had no knowledge of such people and culture. However, by neglecting to value Uchendu’s philosophy that each story contains some truth, the Igbo fail to understand that their power to compose their own stories —in essence, to control their own particular destinies—has turned out to be threatened by the colonizers, which led to things falling apart.
Finally, the last defeat of the Igbo people is proclaimed by another story—an anecdote about them, however one that is described by an outcast. At the end of the novel, the Commissioner concludes that he will write his personal narrative of the Igbo. In any case, he proclaims that he should be “firm in leaving out superfluous details”. There is no space for sly, Igbo-like talk in his story of success. The narrative the Commissioner imagines is one that would make for “interesting reading,” that is, a written rather than a vocal story, which entertains rather than displays cultures and values. The Commissioner’s writing sounds the deathblow for the Igbo culture, its dismissal of the Igbo’s prized oral narrative and rhetoric symbolizing the European conquering of Africa and resulting annihilation of its traditions. The Commissioner’s choice to end up an author mirrors Achebe’s ambiguous relationship to the events and culture he portrays in the novel. With Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe straddles the two opposite methods of narration he describes inside the plot, utilizing both the looping and repetitive style of the oral culture of Igbo as well as the written English of the Europeans. Similar to the Commissioner’s choice to write the Igbo story displays the finish of that story, Chinua Achebe’s “Westernized”-Igbo history connotes the edge of things falling apart. Additionally, through the stories narrated by the mothers of the youth, Igbo people gain knowledge about the wisdom they shall perceive. Such an example could be the tale about the Snake Lizard and his mother (Chapter 9) , which is an exercise about how a shortage of comprehension or information could have severe consequences. These were the collaborative language devices that proceeded to leading things of falling apart.