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.
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.
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.
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.
Dominance Over Women in the Novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
In Igbo culture, the expectation for men is to display dominance over women, which means that they cannot display any qualities associated with feminine actions otherwise they will be seen as a sissy or a weak-link which will decrease your image, masculinity, and power. In the novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe dominance is shown throughout the Ibo village in Nigeria. Okonkwo’s actions between personal and social identity is shown throughout the novel and it is focused on social identity , and how he wants to be viewed as the dominant leader whois power and control of everything,and how he doesn’t want show his personal identity,which willmaker him seem weak, powerless, and a sissy.
Okonkwo’s father, Unoka is an example of someone whom Okonkwo does not want to be known as. Unoku’s mistakes took heart fond into Okonkwo’s life, and he did not want to die without a title like his fathers “Even as a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken to title.” In this quote, ¨agbala¨ is considered an insult towards men whom did not have success or died without any titles these unsuccessful men are basically called out as a woman. Unoku was one of the men who has been considered an agbala.
Okonkwo is ashamed of the fact that someone might call him or his success an agbala. In the article, “Freud’s Theory of the Id Ego and Superego” it explains the different sections of the unconscious mind. “Freud believe that this part of the human beings is not inborn , and that human beings do not develop the superego part of their mind until the age of five.In other words he believed that human beings are not born with a moral sense, but that they can develop it through the rules and expectations of our caregivers.” This explains why Okonkwo grew up angry with his father because he was improvident which molded him into a violent and angry guy and he did not want to be similar to his father at all. The expectations of the village made Okonkwo into some type of “masculine and dominant” persona. Since he didn’t have a dad to look up to , because unoka was a failure.
Ikemefuna was Okonkwo’s adopted son, he loved him like as if he were his real son. Although he loved him he did not show it. His role in society is what caused tragedy come in between Ikemefuna and okonkwo. In chapter seven we can see Okonkwo questioning himself and addressing the fact that his emotions is what is causing him to feel like a “woman” and is guilty for killing his adoptive son Ikemefuna, “When did you become a shivering old woman,” Okonkwo asked himself, “you, who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed’’ His questions towards himself is basically about him being a “woman” being guilty is part of being a coward and Okonkwo feels that any expression towards your inside feelings can harm your social identity and it shouldn’t be that way. Instead he followed the villages orders and ended up being the one who killed ikemefuna like if he was some type of stranger, without thinking twice about it.
Dominance over his many wives is shown in the novel. It expresses power, dominance , and sets the fact of who’s in charge. In chapter two we can address the fact that he has a very bad temper inside his household. All his wife’s scared of him. “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper” this explains that all women know who’s in charge , who had the right to get mad, and who’s the one that is more dominant. The fact that they fear of his bad temper shows dominance itself. Aside from his beating to his last wife for braiding her hair shows that even the littlest thing can get him mad. Because as a wife she is supposed to make Okonkwo her first priority rather than herself. For example in the article Self-Concept by Saul McLeod it focuses on how people view themselves in the way they are insecure or how people view them. “A person’s self-image is affected by many factors,such as parental influences, friends, the media etc.” This explains why Okonkwo’s personality is shaped the way it is, because dominance in society and the fear of looking “weak” shaped him into this violent persona Im his household.
Therefore, the expectation for men is to display dominance over women, which means that they cannot display any qualities associated with womens actions otherwise they will be seen as a sissy or a weak-link which will decrease your image, masculinity, and power. Okonkwo’s character throughout the novel shows us the role between men and women play. While men are dominant and woman aren’t ,Okonkwo’s legacy and toughness gave him power while the wives are just shown as a symbol of power towards men.
Analysis of Characters in “Things Fall Apart”
Okonkwo had risen so suddenly from great poverty and misfortune to be one of the lords of the clan, he was respected in his industry but Okonkwo’s brusqueness in dealing with less successful men was a striking flaw in him. He expects everyone to be as successful as him or even more than him, but he just couldn’t stand the spite of unsuccessful people, by unsuccessful his standards are too high like he sets for himself that he sets for others too. He hates when people contradict his opinions but to oppose or defend them he knew how to kill one’s spirit and slam them down harshly. This attitude of his is clearly portrayed in the starting of Ch. 3 where a kindred meeting was held to discuss the ancestral fest.
When a man named Osugo stood up to voice his opinions that might have contradicted Okonkwo’s, Okonkwo said “This meeting is for men” and it was a savage response to point out that he was a failure and had no right to speak, since that man had no titles and Okonkwo indicated him therefore to be a woman. The men refuted and took sides with Osugo and an ndichie even said sternly “those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent sprit should not forget to be humble.” This just means a man whose lucky to be granted opportunities by the gods should be thankful and not bombastic about his status in society. Some might not have gotten the fruits of life like luck to stand by them and being offered opportunities to succeed. However gods have offered Okonkwo with certain rewards in life, which can be referred as, “cracked some palm kernels for him.” He prompts Okonkwo to remain humble and pay gratitude for the things granted to him and not take advantage of misusing the power of authority, respect and honor he has.
He advises Okonkwo to be empathetic to difficult circumstances of others, especially to those from a lower social ranking (in terms of title system) who wasn’t bestowed a successful path by gods yet. Hence the elders reprimand him of his arrogant and gloating attitude, then insisted/demanded him to apologize. Although this indicated to be a flaw in Okonkwo of boasting himself, on the bright side this was his greater merits because, the old mans words weren’t true exactly. “A benevolent spirit hadn’t cracked Okonkwo’s palm-kernels for him”. He had cracked them himself, he had few helpers along the way who were respected and at higher status (his father’s friend, Nwakibie etc) but despite all Okonkwo had to solely fight hard for his place in society and earn his accomplishments. Anyone who knew his grim struggle against poverty and misfortune couldn’t say he had been lucky. Okonkwo deserved success, at an early age he had achieved fame as the greatest wrestler in all the land.
The European and African Narrative Techniques used in ‘Things Fall Apart’ and ‘Petals of Blood’
The structure of the African novel is seen to be made up from two different frameworks, the external, or international, and the indigenous “mode of discourse and artistic expression.”
1 Therefore, the typical African novel contains elements in its narrative which stem from European colonisers as well as from the customs of other African writers. The African element may even contain certain Arabic influences due to the vicinity of Arab-speaking countries. One may find such characteristics concerning the way the narrative is told to the reader in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Ngugi wa Thiong’o ‘s Petals of Blood. The main focus of this essay shall be on determining which European or African narrative techniques are made use of in the novels and to analyze how they enhance the manner by which the story is delivered.
When looking at Petals of Blood, the reader will initially be struck by how the story is told in flashbacks from the past, rather than in narration from the ongoing present. Although nowadays flashbacks are made use of very frequently (it is said that this narrative technique originated in the Arabian Nights stories), making use of flashbacks in Achebe’s and wa Thiongo’s books part of the African element. While the story of Ilmorog and its inhabitants is told from a future point of view, the past events develop one after the other chronologically.
2 The book starts off with a reference to the present-day Ilmorog, where four people are placed under arrest, and the reader is shown a newspaper excerpt from the Daily Mouthpiece, announcing the death of three important Kenyan men.
3 The following chapter takes the reader back twelve years and the development of Ilmorog is gradually shown, while the story of how the four murder suspects met each other, is slowly pieced together. The flashback method is used in order for the first chapter which takes place in the present, to make sense in the reader’s mind once the novel is finished. Therefore, the reader is kept in a state of curiosity and ignorance of what is fully going on, until the very end.
This enhances the reading experience of the book, which comes to resemble a detective murder mystery. Another possible reason why the author specifically picked the flashback narrative in order to reveal the events which took place throughout the twelve-year gap between the present and Munira’s emergence in Ilmorog is that the past would demonstrate what led certain actions to take place.
4 Again, this is to facilitate the reader’s understanding of the ending. The reader is able to link Munira’s “night vigil on the mountain”
5 Announced on the first page of the novel and also Wanja’s cries about a fire
6 To the final flashback where Munira heads towards Ilmorog Hill after he sets Wanja’s whorehouse on fire
7 On the other hand, the use of flashbacks is not as prominent in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; however, one may find important instances of this narrative technique, for example in the first chapter when Okonkwo’s father is described as a “failure” whose “wife and children had barely enough to eat”
8 And also in chapter nine, when Ezinma directs the medicine man to the “exact spot” where her ‘iyi-uwa’ is buried.
9 In the first flashback mentioned, the reader is allowed a peek inside Okonkwo’s past so as to understand his persistence to become the epitome of masculinity in Umuofia and the surrounding nine villages. The flashback narrating Ekwefi’s numerous miscarriages and Ezinma’s ‘iyi-uwa’ gives more light to Okonkwo’s family history, and enlightens the reader about certain traditions and superstitions in Okonkwo’s tribe, since this relates to the theme of the friction between African and European religions.
Just as in Petals of Blood, the flashback narrative is employed in Achebe’s novel in order to give the reader necessary information to understand the various characters’ decisions and performance in the novel. Another aspect associated with African narrative techniques is the way that African writers do not create simply one hero or protagonist throughout the entire book. In both Things Fall Apart and Petals of Blood, one may find that the main hero of both novels is the “collective entity” of both Ilmorog and Umuofia.
10 The idea of a collective hero is closely linked to one of the main themes which characterizes both Achebe’s and wa Thiongo’s books – the idea of struggling against the invading colonizers. It does not fight the closure of a thematic past, which goes against Fanon’s beliefs of the need to recover their past and debunk the colonial myth that African history and culture is unimportant. The element of the collective hero, however, suggests a continuing struggle and unity in spite of the changing times and conventions.
11 Ngugi endeavored to find a narrative technique which would urge the people to gather together and inspire them to fight for their own rights. This element is also evident in Fanon when he insists that the colonized writer must become “a galvanizer of people” rather than letting them slide into passivity.
12 Fanon called this kind of narration “literature of combat,” as it inspires awareness at a national level and encourages the struggle for liberty.
13 Therefore, the author uses literature as a collective voice belonging to the Africans, in a plea for rights and freedom. In Petals of Blood, one may see the element of the collective hero take place several times.
Plot-wise, this can be seen in the journey of the inhabitants of Ilmorog towards Nairobi, in order to ask the MP for help. The people of Ilmorog were of the idea that “it is [their] turn to make things happen.”
14 One may also view the songs sung by the community as another characteristic of the collective narrative technique, as the songs unite the entire village through language. A good example occurs during the festivities for the ceremony of the circumcision, where Njugana sings a couple of verses, and is answered by a chorus.
15 The element of the collective voice is present also in Things Fall Apart; certain critics have also pointed out that the narrator of this novel has “no persona at all,” nor is it given an age, sex, or any other attributes by which it can be described.
16 This narrator is often described as a character who exists in events which carry a meaning to the members of a particular settlement, and who also represents these communities’ preoccupations and ideologies.
17 Therefore, the narrator is disembodied because his purpose is to symbolize the whole settlement in general. Like the narrator of Petals of Blood, the narrator in Things Fall Apart is there to give a voice to the people of Umuofia.
The unity which binds the community is seen throughout the novel, for instance in the way that the “ekwe talk[s] to the clan” in order to announce Ezeudu’s death to the entire village, not just to one specific individual.
18 This shows how separate beings contribute in the making of one unit – their clan, in this case Umuofia. On the other hand, community events, such as wrestling matches, are accompanied by songs sung by the present crowd, in order to honor the winner.
19 This aspect is identical to the songs sung by the people of Ilmorog in Petals of Blood. Both novels include this narrative technique, in which the author is giving the community a shared spirit, since they can unite not only in their celebrations, but also in their struggle for a better life.
One further feature worth considering is the use of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is used in order to develop tension in the novel, as it hints to the reader what events may take place later on in the narration. It also creates coherence throughout the novel. Examples of foreshadowing appear in old texts such as the epic of Gilgamesh and in Sophocles’s Oedipus the King
20 Making foreshadowing intrinsically a European narrative technique, unlike the use of the flashback and the collective voice. Foreshadowing may be found in both Petals of Blood and Things Fall Apart and it gives the reader and idea of certain important themes or events going on in the novels.
The first epigraph for ‘Part One’ of Petals of Blood is a biblical quote which speaks of how “a white horse…came forth conquering” and again of “a pale horse: and he that sat/ upon him, his name was Death…”
21 These quotations from the Book of Revelations foreshadow the destruction which follows the colonization of Kenya by the Europeans, and how the Africans end up being oppressed by their conquerors. One may see the word ‘Death’ as a metaphoric death of African history and culture, as seen in the episode of Chui’s appearance as the headmaster of the school in Siriana. Chui “did not…want to hear any more nonsense about African teachers, African history, African literature, African this and African that,”
22 And his outward appearance is described as “a black replica of Fraudsham.”
23 This biblical imagery evoking the idea of an apocalypse, as well as the idea of a “worm-eaten flower”
24 Suggests an external force draining the life and resources out of Kenya. This metaphor makes more sense to the reader when it becomes clearer that Ilmorog and Kenya are being exploited by the European colonizers and by the Kenyan elite, who seek to please the afore-mentioned conquerors for their own benefit.
25 The fact that the colonizers are aiming not to bring the light to the African nations, but to kill off anything which may help their development, is foreshadowed from the beginning of the novel, and the events of the novel strengthen its resonances.
The element of foreshadowing in Things Fall Apart is coincidentally also related to colonialism. Obierka describes the white colonizers as being as white as a “piece of chalk” and that according to hearsay, they “have no toes.”
26 Machi responds by joking that one of these rumored white people is Amadi, a leper. Achebe concludes the chapter with the comment that “the polite name for leprosy was ‘the white skin’.”
27 The fact that it is the final sentence for the chapter, leads the reader to wonder whether it holds any deeper meaning, and that it is not just a casual joke or remark. In fact, Richard J. Lane suggests that this may be foreshadowing the invasion and aggression of the colonizers, in quite an intricate manner. Achebe makes it clear that the white chalk is used by guests to draw “lines on the floor” before eating kola nuts. Lane states that the action of marking lines is a symbol of “boundary-making.”
28 This foreshadows the episode of the white man as a guest in the area, and given a reputedly cursed piece of land in the Evil Forest to build their church, outside the limits of their community. As time went by, the ‘guest’ started to infiltrate the land as the colonizers’ beliefs and ideologies spread among the Africans
29 For example Nwoye forsakes his former life and family to embrace Christianity
30 Thus the white colonizer starts to ‘chalk’ down his own boundaries of his own while conquering more ground. The idea that the white skin is a reminder of leprosy also foreshadows how the colonizers will spread among Umuofia and the neighboring villages like a disease.
31 In fact, while Okonkwo was in exile, Obierika brings him the news that “Abame has been wiped out.”
32 The colonizer here is very similar to leprosy, as the latter obliterates body parts, and the Europeans have annihilated an entire village. One must remember how a village is very much like a body as every individual is required to make the settlement whole, and therefore, Achebe’s image of the leprosy used to foreshadow the colonizers’ destruction, is very apt. The fact that foreshadowing, a European narrative technique, is used by both Ngugi and Achebe specifically to make the reader aware of the devastation brought about by the Europeans themselves, is very ironic and telling in itself. The reason why the authors opted for this method to construct their novel is perhaps to reach out to the international readers, and to show other Europeans what is actually going on in Africa.
An important element one must discuss when looking at Petals of Blood and Things Fall Apart is the point of view through which the narration unfolds. Ngugi decided to tell his story through a multiplicity of viewpoints, where the past of the four main characters – Munira, Karega, Wanja and Abdullah – is exhibited to the reader as the narration unravels. While the reader is conveniently placed in one of the characters’ minds, and therefore allowed to see the world through his or her perspective, the elements which built up this particular protagonist start to emerge and connect with the present, allowing the reader to make sense of the situation. A relevant example can be seen in Wanja’s unconscious mumbling in the hospital when saying, “Fire…Fire…My mother’s sister…my dear aunt.”
33 At a later stage in the novel, the reader is privileged to learn through her point of view, that Wanja’s fear of fire stems from the fact that her aunt, who was a freedom fighter, was killed by a fire.
34 Ironically, it is fire which frees Wanja from the immoral constraints of the whorehouse.
35 The manner by which Ngugi executed his novel is very popular in contemporary literature, especially those found in Europe and America, therefore his choice of perspective is another European feature in his novel. On the other hand, while the sense of multiple perspectives is not prevalent in Things Fall Apart, this does not mean that its point of view is not complex enough to analyze. Written with misleadingly simple vocabulary, the narration is mostly channeled through the omniscient third-person narrator, as the teller of the story is aware of everything the characters think and feel. One may note how for instance in the introductory statement, “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond…Umuofia to Mbaino”
36 The main character’s description completely lacks any authorial comments. According to Dannenberg this suggests that Achebe is using an omnipresent narrator who is made up of what the local people say about Okonkwo and his achievements.
37 When the narrator goes on to describe Okonkwo’s behavior towards his family, he comments about how he “ruled his household with a heavy hand” and how his wives and children “lived in perpetual fear” of his tempestuous personality. Here the narrator is speaking his own voice and that of Okonkwo’s families, giving the reader two different sides of Okonkwo on which the reader may ponder.
38 Therefore, the narrator seems to be giving the reader snippets of what different people are thinking at the time, rather than what the author himself thinks. The reader will be able to construct the characters and the plot solely through what is going on on the novel. The third-person omniscient point of view is one of the most flexible narrative techniques and is widely used in both European and African literature.
One may see, therefore, how both Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o made use of both African and European narrative elements when writing their books. A reason for this may be the fact that the variety of elements contributes towards the universality of the book, as it makes its content familiar with both African and European readers. Therefore, the message of the book is effectively and efficiently delivered to readers from a wider geographical area, as the use of both African and European elements allows more readers to engage the books in a better manner. One may safely assume that the purpose of both books is that people are made aware of the real objectives of the colonizers and what the colonized Africans are going through, and this message must reach not only the African reader but the European as well.
Achebe, Chinua, Things Fall Apart (London: Penguin Books, 2010)
Dannenberg, Hilary, ‘The Many Voices of Things Fall Apart’, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 11 (2009) <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13698010903053048>
Fanon, Frantz, Speech by Frantz Fanon at the Congress of Black African Writers, 1959 Wretched of the Earth: Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the Fight for Freedom (n.d.) <https://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/national-culture.htm> [accessed 11 June 2016]
Gikandi, Simon, Reading Chinua Achebe: Language & Ideology in Fiction (Oxford: James Currey Ltd, 2002)
Knight, Elisabeth, ‘Kenya’, in European-language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa, Part 2, ed. by Albert S. Gerard (Budapest: Akademiai Kiad 1986), pp. 887-921
Lane, Richard J., The Postcolonial Novel (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006)
Lovesey, Oliver, The Postcolonial Intellectual: Ngugi Wa Thiong’s in Context (Oxon: Routledge, 2016)
Matus, Douglas, What Is the Origin of Foreshadowing? (Demand Media, 2014) <http://education.seattlepi.com/origin-foreshadowing-5801.html> [accessed 15 June 2016]
Mnthali, Felix, ‘Narrative Design in the African Novel’, in An Introduction to the African Prose Narrative, ed. by Lokangaka Losambe (South Africa: Africa World Press, Inc., 2004), pp.29-43
Nicholls, Brendon, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Gender, and the Ethics of Postcolonial Reading (Oxon: Routledge, 2016)
Ogude, James, Ngugi’s Novels And African History: Narrating the Nation (London: Pluto Press, 1999)
Wa Thiong’o, Ngugi, Petals of Blood (London: Penguin Books, 1977)
Williams, Patrick, Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999)
Felix Mnthali, ‘Narrative Design in the African Novel’, in An Introduction to the African Prose Narrative, ed. by Lokangaka Losambe (South Africa: Africa World Press, Inc., 2004), pp.29-43 (p.29).
Elisabeth Knight, ‘Kenya’, in European-language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa, Part 2, ed. by Albert S. Gerard (Budapest: Akademiai Kiad 1986), pp. 887-921 (p.919).
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Petals of Blood (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 6.
Patrick Williams, Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), p.78. wa Thiong’o, p.3. 6
Ibid., p.4. 7I
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (London: Penguin Books, 2010), p.5. 9
Elisabeth Knight, ‘Kenya’, in European-language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa, Part 2, ed. by Albert S. Gerard (Budapest: Akademiai Kiad 1986), pp. 887-921 (p.917).
Oliver Lovesey, The Postcolonial Intellectual: Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in Context (Oxon: Routledge, 2016), p.103.
Frantz Fanon, Speech by Frantz Fanon at the Congress of Black African Writers, 1959 Wretched of the Earth: Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the Fight for Freedom (n.d.) <https://www.marxists.org /subject/africa/fanon/national-culture.htm> [accessed 11 June 2016].
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Petals of Blood (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 138.
Simon Gikandi, Reading Chinua Achebe: Language & Ideology in Fiction (Oxford: James Currey Ltd, 2002), p.44.
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (London: Penguin Books, 2010), pp. 113-4.
Ibid., p. 48.
Douglas Matus, What Is the Origin of Foreshadowing? (Demand Media, 2014) <http://education.seattlepi.com /origin-foreshadowing-5801.html> [accessed 15 June 2016].
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Petals of Blood (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 1.
Ibid., p. 206.
Ibid., p. 205.
Ibid., p. 26.
Brendon Nicholls, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Gender, and the Ethics of Postcolonial Reading (Oxon: Routledge, 2016), p.132.
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (London: Penguin Books, 2010), p.69.
Ibid., p. 70.
Richard J. Lane, The Postcolonial Novel (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006), p.41.
Ibid., p. 41.
Achebe, p. 144.
Richard J. Lane, The Postcolonial Novel (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006), p.41.
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (London: Penguin Books, 2010), p.69.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Petals of Blood (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p.5.
Ibid., p. 278.
James Ogude, Ngugi’s Novels And African History: Narrating the Nation (London: Pluto Press, 1999), p.122.
Achebe. p. 3.
Hilary Dannenberg, ‘The Many Voices of Things Fall Apart’, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 11 (2009) <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13698010903053048> (p.177).
Ibid., p. 177.
Relationship Between Western Imperialism and the Third World in the Novel Things Fall Apart
Throughout history, countries have attempted to spread their influence by establishing colonies. During the nineteenth century, many European countries began attempting to colonize Africa. These colonies did not fare too well. Africa was left in a state of devastation and it’s people’s societies in shambles. Millions of people disapprove of Europe’s imperialistic nature and the negative effects it caused in Africa. As a result of this great disapproval, many books have been written, many movies have been filmed, and still more songs have been composed. One such example of a literary critique of effect of Western Imperialism in the “Third World” is the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinau Achebe.
One example is of the effect is how the church begins to change the village. One example of this is that how the village becomes less violent over time. When the novella begins, the village has a violent culture, most noticeable by how revered the great warrior Okonkwo is.. He is one of the most respected people in the town, which is unlikely for his age. This respect was earned in the field of combat. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Unuoka, Okonkwo’s peace loving father, is not respected at all. While this can be attributed to his lazy and leeching nature, it is not so hard to assume that some of this lack of respect stems from his peaceful nature. After the Christians begin to change the village, the respect Umuofia has towards a violent lifestyle begins to diminish. This is evidenced by the fact that Umuofia has no violent interactions with other villages after the Christians come to Umuofia.
Another negative effect was of the government. The Christians brought their government along with them. This government gave fewer rights to the natives. Essentially, the natives allowed Christians to stay there, the Christians brought their government, and their government began mistreating the natives. This treatment is the predecessor to apartheid. Western Imperialism brought apartheid and encouraged other racism within Africa. The government also destroyed the native command system. The government caused immeasurable damage to the previously undisturbed society of the Igbo.
The novella Things Fall Apart can be considered a critique of the negative effect that Western Imperialism had on the “Third World.” Many of the situations in the novella describe situations that occurred in Africa in the nineteenth century. These negative effects parallel the ones in real life. This novella describes simply how devastating the effect of Western Imperialism had on the “Third World.”