Things Fall Apart
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.”
The Destructive Clash of Cultures
In their respective works Things Fall Apart and The Joys of Motherhood, both Chinua Achebe and Buchi Emecheta depict the effects of colonialism on Igbo society.
While Achebe demonstrates the gradual process of colonial imposition, Buchi Emecheta examines its aftermath. Nonetheless, Nnu Ego and Okonkwo endure a parallel struggle with the conflicting cultures of Igbo tradition and colonial society. The gradual downfall of Okonkwo and the eventual solitude of Nnu Ego are byproducts of these clashing attitudes. Essentially, they both are enslaved by their inherent devotion to tradition. For Okonkwo, the colonial imposition undermines every value and influence that has shaped his existence. In an analogous way, Nnu Ego attempts to fulfill her traditional goals of motherhood amidst the modern and colonized city of Lagos. Both characters inevitably fail as the discord between the cultures proves to be insurmountable.
Although colonialism is the main focus of Chinua Achebe’s novel, a significant portion of the book is devoted to establishing Igbo culture, untouched by western influences. In his description, he attempts to be an objective historian as he relates all aspects of the culture, even those that seem outrageous. For example, twins were viewed as an abomination in Igbo society and, accordingly, would be abandoned and killed. However, unlike a common historian or textbook, Achebe incorporates a personal aspect to his accounts; he not only describes the actions, but also details the reasoning and values which support them. In effect, the reader is immersed into the society rather than simply informed of it. Although it may be difficult to empathize with such radical traditions, one can nevertheless sympathize with them after thoroughly understanding their foundations. Achebe’s emphasis on the values and beliefs of Igbo society is essential to recognizing why things fall apart. Okonkwo’s character embodies these traditions. Thus, his gradual downfall parallels the breakdown and dissolution of Igbo culture. Achebe realizes that understanding the culture itself presupposes the understanding of its collapse.
After firmly establishing the fabric of the society, Achebe describes its encroaching colonization. The primary step of imposition is changing the fundamental Igbo mentality. In order to affect this deep-rooted state of mind, the Christian missionaries attack the foundation of their entire way of life, which is essentially based on their spiritual beliefs. By making them doubt what they have accepted as spiritual conviction, the missionaries gradually gain validity and support among the clansmen. For instance, when the Christian church survives the notorious Evil Forest, many long held superstitions and beliefs are called into doubt. Thus, things begin to fall apart as more people convert to Christianity. In other words, everything Okonkwo deems important and true in life is threatened especially with the conversion of his own son. After Christianity is established as a religious influence, other western institutions such as government are also introduced. Each additional institution brings with it more restrictions and further demeans Igbo tradition. Attempts to resist such imposition, like the burning of the church, begin to have legal ramifications according to white law. Soon after, the clansmen were even denied the right to assembly. Ultimately, resistance proves to be futile. Despite his devotion to tradition, Okonkwo lacks the necessary support of his peers to adequately counter white subjugation. His suicide represents the death of a culture; his decision to take his life parallels his realization that Igbo society is beyond salvation.
A similar conflict with tradition can be seen when examining Nnu Ego’s circumstances in The Joys of Motherhood. Her mentality reflects the traditional Igbo sense of a woman’s role. Initially, she assumes the role of a good daughter, complying with her father’s desires and aspirations. As a result, what her father expects of her translates into what she expects of herself: becoming a good wife and mothering many children are deemed top priorities. The fulfillment of these priorities is the standard by which society judges a woman’s worth. For example, male children are a measure of greater wealth and status than daughters. Because Nnu Ego values these traditional views with the utmost conviction, her happiness is contingent upon their fulfillment. Accordingly, she attempts to kill herself after the death of her first son. Emecheta thus establishes the significant relationship between Nnu Ego’s personal happiness and her children. She justifies her complete devotion to the role of a caretaker by appealing to its rewards: her children are expected to reciprocate such care in her old age. No matter how much pain she endures, Nnu Ego continually reminds herself of the future benefits. Thus, these rewards are the driving motivation for her self-enslavement to this role.
A conflict arises when Nnu Ego attempts to transfer these traditional beliefs into the opposing culture of the colonized Lagos. Fundamentally, the need for money, which is nonexistent in Ibuza, poses a problem. This need requires Nnu Ego to step outside of the traditional woman’s role in order to contribute financial support. Thus, yet another responsibility is added to an already long list of duties. Such a monetary need also causes a conflict with the traditionally-valued notion of bearing many children. In its practical and economic application, more children entail greater burden within an urban context. Such an urban setting also has a significant effect on the attitudes of the children themselves. Education, for example, possesses greater weight in Lagos than in the more traditional Ibuza: the aspirations of Nnu Ego’s children intrinsically incorporate education for the sake of itself. Although Nnu Ego also adopts this value of education, she does not fully comprehend the process in its entirety. She works hard to provide for this education, understanding its benefits for the future of her children; however, she does so always with the traditional and ultimate hope of reciprocated caretaking. In the end, what she had always expected to be the joys of motherhood are unfulfilled; her attempts to achieve the goals of the traditional Ibuza mentality in a colonized urban environment fall short.
Nnu Ego’s incomplete assimilation effected her heartbreaking tribulations. For the sake of survival, she is able to somewhat adapt to the Lagos way of life; however, she fails to overcome the conflicting disparity between her firmly embedded traditional values and the colonized urban society. With both sons pursuing further education abroad, Nnu Ego never receives the comfort they were intended to provide. Facing a similar clash of cultures, Okonkwo exhibits obstinate resistance to the white invasion which preceded his tragic demise. His tale deserves merely a paragraph in the Commissioner’ book, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. This reduction corresponds to the British imperialists ignorance of Igbo culture that Achebe strived to demonstrate. Essentially, Achebe’s novel serves as an opposing alternative to colonial history books describing African societies that naively classify them as primitive tribes.
Triumph and Tragedy: The Exploration of a Tragic Hero and the Consequences of Others That Contribute to the Overall Tragic Vision of the Piece “Things Fall Apart”
From the very title of this historical fiction novel, Things Fall Apart, composed by Chinua Achebe, it foreshadows the tragedy which is triggered by the tragic hero. Defined by Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, a tragic hero is a character who is of noble stature and greatness who posses a hamartia, a tragic flaw that leads to the character’s downfall. Subsequently, the tragic hero undergoes peripeteia, the sudden reversal of fortune for this character which results in catastrophe. Ultimately the character acknowledges their situation, known as anagnorisis.
In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo, the central character, is considered to be the tragic hero. He transitions from being an admired leader and strong warrior of the lower Nigerian tribe, Umuofia, to committing in an act based on his hamartia that influences catastrophe. Okonkwo’s actions resulted in others suffering including himself. The anguish others experienced because of Okonkwo’s indecent choices contributes to the universal view of Okonkwo’s journey as the tragic hero. The first requirement for a character to be considered a tragic hero would be that the character must be of high status. As stated by Achebe in the novel, “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements”(3).
Okonkwo started from scratch, with no inheritance from his father, Okonkwo managed to work strenuously to become a strong warrior and a wealthy, respected man. Okonkwo earned many titles though his labour and dedication to not become a failure that his father was, Unoka. Unoka had borrowed an immense amount of money from his neighbors to buy titles he desired. He was a man known to be in debt. Okonkwo’s fear that he would become as his father did, he made the decision to hate everything his father ever loved. Okonkwo’s toil resulted in him having a large compound with a hut for each of his 3 wives with and many children. Okonkwo also possessing a large stock of yams, earned a lot of the respect from others for yams are valued in the Ibo Beliefs. Okonkwo also earned respect for himself when he was 18, when he bought honor to his town by defeating Amalinze the Cat, a previously undefeated wrestler for 7 years.
Okonkwo is a respected judge in the community, for he is one of the nine Egwugwu. This means he is presumed to be a spirit of an ancestor. Additionally, he is also a representative of his village to talk with the Mbaino village about the killer of the girl of Umuofia. Distinctly, Okonkwo is of noble stature, despite of how he began. Alike other tragic heroes, Okonkwo owns a tragic flaw, his hamartia. For his father, a failure, Okonkwo possess the fear of weakness and failure. Although these aspects drove him to success, fame, and his achievements, it also results in him causing many conflicts. Since Okonkwo’s has a fear of failure and weakness, this leads him to behave impulsively and violently Swindle 3toward others. This even includes his family members in which he is always violent and harsh towards. This is for his purpose of not being seen as weak person. Okonkwo’s extreme attitude of using strength and violence to not be seen as weak, ultimately causing problems with his family which lead to his ultimate downfall. For instance, Okonkwo fractures a clan law and beats the youngest of his wives during the week of peace. Also at the same time he comes close to shooting his second wife. Okonkwo kills his son Nwoye’s close 15 year old friend who was given up to Umuofia as a sacrifice for killing one of the women in Umuofia.
Ikemefuna, his name was, who lived with Okonkwo’s family for three years before the elders ordered him to be killed. Okonkwo is told not to take part in Ikemefuna’s sacrifice because he is basically the man who raised him for three years and Ikemefuna calls Okonkwo “father.” Okonkwo’s fear of being seen as weak, makes him react violently and he Kills Ikemefuna despite the warning given to him. Ikemefuna asks for Okonkwo’s help because “He was afraid of being thought weak”(43). By trying to be a powerful person and deciding to kill Ikemefuna and beats his wives during the week of peace shows Okonkwo weakened his relationship with Nwoye and his wives. His violent and impulsive qualities also hurts himself mentally which lead him to kill a court messenger from the British during the clan meeting which soon after leads Okonkwo to the discovery of his own tragic fate. The last requirement for a character being a tragic hero requires that the character must recognize his own fate and situation, anagnorisis. Okonkwo experiences anagnorisis when he returns home to Umuofia after his seven years of exile with his great plan. Upon his arrival, Okonkwo realizes that a lot has changed in Umuofia and that now he is not looked upon as Swindle 4important or famous anymore as he used to be before his exile. When his arrival doesn’t attract as much attention as he hoped, he loses his place in the Egwugwu. He also discovers the white men have settled in the village, trying to get the Ibo people to convert to Christianity. He sees that in his view the Christians are attacking Igbo customs and faith. Okonkwo was unhappy with this and by his temper, he persuades his clan to use violence to drive the white men out of the village.
Conflicts between the Ibo and the Christians included the unmasking of Egwugwu, the burning of the church and the deceptive meeting held by the white men which results in the capture and humiliation of the five clan members, including Okonkwo. Okonkwo then kills one of the five British court members, which is then when he discovers his tragic fate. When Okonkwo beheads the messenger during the clan meeting and sees that none of his clan members go after the escaping white men, “He knew that Umuofia would not go to war” (144). He realizes that he will never be able get rid of the white men in Umuofia because his clan will not fight with him. He realizes that he is defeated and cannot save his village from the white men influences. Okonkwo decides to hang himself, which is contributes to the meaning of an abomination in Igbo culture. Okonkwo’s character fits Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. Okonkwo rises to be the honorable and successful leader of Umuofia. He also has a tragic flaw of a fear of weakness and failure that leads to his downfall ultimately. Finally, he discovers his own tragic fate and situation of his harsh temper by of killing the court British messenger. If it weren’t for the suffering of others in the novel caused by Okonkwo, a tragic hero, then the tragic hero vision of Okonkwo would not be whole.
Comparison between Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s “A Grain Of Wheat” and Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
Power and respect take years to be earned however it only takes one mistake for it to all be taken away. Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s A Grain Of Wheat and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart both capture the lives and hardships of Kenyans and Nigerians during the postcolonial era from a first hand perspective. Both Thiongo and Achebe revile to the reader that power and respect take time to be earned however a rash mistake made at a time of anger can result in the loss of authority and can cause the tragic downfall of a hero. This is show as both protagonist is the novel’s come from unstable upbringing that lead them on a quest for success and power, once the protagonists are in a position of authority and respect they misuse their power when they are filled with rage and make a grave mistake, this mistake is what leads to their own downfall as a tragic hero and both Thiongo and Achebe use irony to convey this effect. Those who come from unstable upbringing often strive to work hard to change their life path and be noticed as an important member of society. This motivation even though it can help a person succeed and meet their goals it can also cause them to be fixated on gaining power and respect.
Throughout A Grain Of Wheat and Things Fall Apart both protagonist Mugo and Okonkwo are raised in unfavourable circumstances, and this causes them to be obsessed with the idea of being wealthy and being respected by others in society. In A Grain Of Wheat it is evident that the passing of Mugo’s parents leads him to be determined to work hard and gain a better life for himself “Mugo’s father and mother had died poor, leaving him, an only child in the hands of a distant aunt”(Thiongo,9). This experience drives Mugo to wanting wealth and authority as he does not inherit much from his parents passing, and is left to be taken care of by an aunt that he hates. Mugo’s resentment for his aunt comes from her neglect as well as feelings of being powerless to both his aunt and society as he is barely noticed by them. When Mugo’s aunt passes away, Mugo becomes fixated on working hard and gaining a better life for himself “He turned to the soil. He would labour, sweat, and through success and wealth, force society to recognize him”(Thiongo,11). This quote shows how Mugo turns his feelings of powerlessness into motivation as he turns his passion for farming as a means to gain success, and be noticed and respected by the others in society.
Similarly in Things Fall Apart Okonkwo follows a similar path of being obsessed with gaining success and authority, as he resents his father for not having any title and for caring a huge amount of debt. After his father’s passing Okonkwo realizes that he does not receive the same start in life as the others in his community as the others inherit barns, seeds and land, all which they then use to continue in their success and provide for their families. “Okonkwo did not have the start in life which many young men usually had. He did not inherit a barn from his father. There was no barn to to inherit”(Achebe,12). This quote illustrates how Okonkwo not being able to have the same advantages as the others causes him to become determined to work hard, and put himself in a place where he becomes noticed for his successes and enduvers. To Okonkwo his father is a failure as he is unable to make a proper living for himself. The fear of ending up like his father is what causes Okonkwo to become obsessed with becoming highly titled as he refuses to accept the same fate as his father. Here on can see that both protagonist Mugo and Okonkwo coming from poverty are driven by the failures of their parents to become consumed with being rich and having a high standing in society. Mugo and Okonkwo also both use farming as their way to gain wealth and standout in society. This determination to be successful and standout defiantly has a huge hold on Mugo’s and Okonkwo’s life as it is evident that will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.Once in a position of power and authority it can become increasingly easy for a person to misuse their power and make a rash decision at a time of anger.
Throughout A Grain Of Wheat and Things Fall Apart both Mugo and Okonkwo rise to positions of authority, and are highly respected within their communities for their hard work and heroism. However once at this positions when Mugo and Okonkwo feel as if their authority is being questioned, or they do not agree with the decisions of other they become enraged causing them to make a crucial mistake. In A Grain Of Wheat when Mugo returns from the detention camp he is regarded in the community as a hero for taking several beatings. Due to this Mugo is invited to take part in a movement lead by Kihika and the community to retaliate, and take sacrifices for the death of community leaders for protesting against the Europeans taking land. Mugo does not support the movement however instead of voicing his concerns he chooses to instead betray Kihika and reveal his location to the Europeans, causing his death. “I know where Kihika can be found, tonight.” And now the hatred he had felt towards Kihika roses fresh in him”(Thiongo,226). This quote illustrates how Mugo lets his anger get the better of him as he uses information he is trusted with to betray Kihika. When Mugo becomes known for his heroism and respect he lets that cloud his judgment while he is angry at Kihika. Even though Mugo thinks he is making the right decision to betray Kihika he does not know that the guilt from his betrayal will consume him, and that this will be the tragic mistake leading him on a path to his downfall. Similarly in Things Fall Apart Okonkwo also makes a rash mistake while he is angry.
When Okonkwo returns from his seven years of exile he expects to be treated again with respect and authority. However Okonkwo has a differing opinion compared to others on their course of action in response to the christian missionaries and their dwellings on the land. The community decides to work out a solution in a peaceful manner. Okonkwo however does not agree with this decision and is filled with rage when he feels that his power is being questioned by others. Okonkwo while extremely angry decides to take actions into his own hands and kills the messenger sent by the district commissioner. “In a flash Okonkwo drew his matchet. The messenger crouched to avoid the blow. It was useless. Okonkwo’s matchet decended twice and the man’s head lay beside his uniform body”(Achebe,144).
One can see through this quote that Okonkwo while filled with rage makes a tragic mistake as this action causes him to be rebuked by others. Okonkwo does not know it at the time however this is the tragic mistake that will eventually lead to his downfall. One can see that when Mugo and Okonkwo’s gain power and respect they make rash decisions in order to keep their title and authority. They can not stand to compromise their ideas with others. As well as when they are forced to follow a courses of action they do not agree or support they both become filled with anger, and this causes them to make rash decisions that will have a negative impact on them leading them on path to their downfall.All it takes is one mistake for power and respect to be taken away from a person. Throughout A Grain of Wheat and Things Fall Apart Mugo and Okonkwo both make a tragic mistake that will eventually resulting in their downfall.
In A Grain Of Wheat Mugo can not live with his mistake of betraying Kihika and causing his death. It is evident that Mugo’s feelings of guilt greatly affect him as he is no longer able to feel pride from being called a hero. Mugo as an attempt to get rid of his guilt chooses to confess to his entire community “You asked for Judas he started you asked for the man that led Kihika to this tree. That man stands before you (Thiongo,252). Here Mugo gives up on living with his guilt, and informs his community about the mistake he makes many year ago. Even though Mugo confesses as a way to redeem himself the member of his community grow furious, and can not forgive the one mistake he made and instead vow to punish him. “Your deeds will condemn you,” General R. Continued without anger or apparent bitterness.‘You-No one will ever escape from his own actions”(Thiongo,270).
This quote illustrates how easy it is for one mistake to take away a persons standing and respect as before Mugo’s confession he is viewed by many as a hero. Mugo hopes that his confession will result in the community forgiving him. However instead it causes the community and all those who look up at Mugo to turn against him resulting in his downfall. This shows that one mistake is all it take for Mugo to become a tragic hero. Thiongo use irony to deliver this effect as before Mugo’s confesses the community believes that he is not involved with Kihika’s death, and sees him as an inspiration for taking a huge role in the movement to retaliate. After Mugo’s confession they are able to understand that they give credit and respect to Mugo for betraying Kihika. It is ironic as the entire community is shocked that they once called Mugo a hero for doing the exact opposite of what he is praised for. Similarly in Things Fall Apart Okonkwo’s mistake of going against the community’s wishes and killing the messenger soon catches up with him. Okonkwo makes a rash mistake as a means to regain his power however he soon realizes that the others are not impressed with his actions and rebuke him. In this moment Okonkwo can not live knowing that he lost all his power and authority after his return from exile.
When Okonkwo comes to terms with his reality and the consequences his actions have he knows that he will be punished for his rash desision. Okonkwo realizes that he makes a mistake when he kills the messenger and not wanting to face the retaliation Okonkwo chooses to take his own life instead “Then they came to the tree from which Okonkwo’s body was dangling, and they stopped dead”(Achebe,147). This quote shows how Okonkwo becomes a tragic hero as he makes one mistake that results in his ultimate downfall. Before this incident Okonkwo is viewed as a highly titled and important member of society, however after Okonkwo feels as if he is worth nothing to his community and takes his own life in an attempt to escape his own feelings. Achebe uses irony to convey this effect as throughout the novel Okonkwo is driven to gain success because he did not want to become a failure like his father. It is ironic as at the end of the day Okonkwo becomes just like his father even though he tried everything to avoid that path. One can see how Mugo and Okonkwo’s mistakes have a devastating effect on them, as before this they are both living their ideal lives. However as one can see it only takes one rash decision to derail all their accomplishments and have them be rejected again by society. As well as both Thiongo and Achebe use irony extremely well to capture the effect of Mugo and Okonkwo’s tragic downfall.
At the end both Mugo and Okonkwo lose all the power and authority they worked hard to gain all caused by one devastating mistake made at a time of anger. In conclusion both Thiongo and Achebe revile to the reader that all it takes is one mistake to lose everything one worked hard to gain, and this causes the downfall of a hero. They illustrate this as both protagonist are raised in property causing them to become obsessed with gaining success and authority, once the protagonists receive the power and wealth they have been yearning for they act rashly when angered resulting in them making a devastating mistake, this one mistake is all that it takes for both protagonist to lose all they toiled hard for resulting in their tragic downfall and both authors use irony to emphasise this effect. Both Thiongo and Achebe excently capture similar traditions and conflicts between the novels and emphasizes how crucial one mistake can be even on the life of a highly respected hero.
Purple Hibiscus and Things Fall Apart: Comparing Father/Son Relationship Themes
Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart both emphasize the complexities of father-son relationships. The major theme of parental conflict is developed throughout the course of both texts and serves to illustrate the impact of Western imperialism on Igbo culture. While Adichie openly acknowledges that she was inspired by Achebe, a closer look at the nuanced differences between the two novels illuminates Adichie’s own voice. Okonkwo, the misogynistic character with a masculinity complex, is a man still scarred by his father’s pathetic reputation in Things Fall Apart. His father’s ill repute and lack of titles spur Okonkwo to pursue a better life in an attempt to dissociate himself from his father. On the other hand, Eugene, the antagonist and father figure in Purple Hibiscus, ostracizes his father on the basis of religious disagreement. Adichie uses the differences between Eugene’s and Okonkwo’s paternal conflicts to comment on the changes that Western colonialism has brought about in Nigeria.
Even though Achebe’s and Adichie’s works of realistic fiction share many similarities, the reasons for and methods by which Eugene and Okonkwo respond to paternal conflict differ, thus allowing Adichie to portray the transition from Igbo to European-influenced Nigerian culture.The enmity between Okonkwo and his father, Unoka, is founded on the unadulterated standards of Igbo culture. More specifically, the instability is the result of Unoka’s lack of determination and wealth : “When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavily in debt. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him?” (pg.8). Unoka’s failure in becoming a notable member within Umuofia is what gives Okonkwo the drive to strive for greatness. The standards present in Umuofia have not yet been impacted by European colonialism, and, as such, give insight to the “original” values of Igbo tradition. As a result, Adichie is able to use these standards as a foundation to create her own father-son dynamic by representing the relationship between Eugene and Papa Nnukwu through a different lens.While Okonkwo’s society in Umuofia underscores the importance of titles and status, Eugene’s more contemporary society in Enugu prioritizes Catholic principles, those which were derived from colonialism. The discord between Eugene and Papa Nnukwu is due to a fundamental difference in religious ideology. Eugene, who is Catholic, instills in his children the notion that taking part in or even observing any Igbo tradition is a sin. This belief makes a stable relationship with his father impossible, and leads to the estrangement of Papa Nnukwu in Eugene’s life. Eugene credits his prosperous life not to the guidance of his father but to the missionary school he attended as a child: “I didn’t have a father who sent me to the best schools. My father spent his time worshipping gods of wood and stone. I would be nothing today but for the priests and sisters at the mission” (p. 47). He believes that Papa Nnukwu, who practices Igbo traditions, is a heathen and goes as far as to severely limit Jaja’s and Kambili’s interactions with him. Papa Nnukwu never wronged Eugene; in fact, it was Papa Nnukwu’s decision to send Eugene to the missionary school. However, after being indoctrinated into a set of stringent beliefs prohibiting him from coming in contact with a non-believer, Eugene distances himself and his family from his father. Papa Nnukwu falls short of Eugene’s standards and is consequently shunned. The transition of Nigerian society is evident not only in Eugene’s preference for the white pastor, Father Benedict, over the Nigerian pastor, Father Amadi, but also in Eugene’s fabricated British accent when speaking to Father Benedict.
The ways in which each character responds to parental conflict are also dissimilar. Okonkwo espouses a set of ideals that are entirely opposite to those of Unoka in an attempt to differentiate himself from his father’s undesirable legacy. Umuofia does not judge an individual on his or her ancestors; rather, judgment is predicated on the actions of the individual. Umuofia’s leniency allows Okonkwo to pursue a better life, and he ultimately accomplishes his goal: “Although Okonkwo was still young, he was already one of the greatest men of his time. Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings. Okonkwo had clearly washed his hands so he ate with kings and elders” (pg.8). Through perseverance and determination, Okonkwo is able to establish himself as one of the “greatest men of his time.” His character differs completely from that of Unoka; Unoka was cowardly, lazy and of slight build. In contrast, Okonkwo was the greatest wrestler in all nine villages, steadfast in his work ethic, and respected throughout the community. Okonkwo is said to have “washed his hands” suggestive of the fact that he has dissociated himself from the bad name of his father and has become a revered member of Umuofia. The struggle that Okonkwo faces can be categorized as an external one, in that it is largely societal pressure which motivates Okonkwo.
Adichie alters the underlying reasons for conflict seen in Things Fall Apart in her depiction of Eugene and Papa Nnukwu to demonstrate the loss of cultural identity as a result of imperialism. The dissension between Eugene and Papa Nnukwu is a paradigm for the cultural clash occurring on a larger scale within Nigeria. While Eugene practices Catholicism, a product of Christian expansionism in Africa, Papa Nnukwu practices the age-old Igbo tradition. Adichie contrasts Igbo tradition with European tradition throughout the text to symbolize the transformation of postcolonial Nigerian society. Eugene’s forthright disapproval of Igbo tradition is ubiquitous throughout the text, to the extent that he urges his family to refrain from speaking in Igbo: “He [Eugene] hardly spoke Igbo, and although Jaja and I spoke it with Mama at home, he did not like us to speak it in public. We had to sound civilized in public, he told us; we had to speak English” (pg. 16). Eugene’s attempt to inculcate in his children the notion that English is the “civilized” language is indicative of the deep-seated imperialist influence in Nigeria and the degree to which Eugene has internalized it. Adichie uses Eugene’s relationship with his father as a means to further develop the notion of an ideological conflict between generations as a result of colonialist influence.
The differences in Adichie’s and Achebe’s portrayals of father-son conflict exemplify Adichie’s own expression of the effects of European influence on Nigerian society. While both Eugene and Okonkwo have unstable bonds with their fathers, the core of each feud varies. While Okonkwo’s relationship is affected by the standards of untouched Igbo tradition, Eugene’s relationship with his father is affected by the standards of postcolonial Nigerian society. By shifting the context and nature of Eugene and Papa Nnukwu’s relationship, Adichie essentially resumes the novel where Achebe had stopped. Given that Purple Hibiscus takes place after Things Fall Apart, Adichie uses the time gap to convey the cultural change. The heightened importance of Catholicism that Adichie depicts symbolizes the impact of colonialism on Nigerian and furthermore Igbo culture, the contention between “white man’s” and “black man’s” ideology. On a larger scale, Adichie subtly illustrates the convergence of indigenous Nigerian culture and imperialistic European culture and shows the shift in religious ideology as a result, doing so through the microcosm of father-son relationships.
Summary of Questions of Character Joseph L. Badaracco Jr
Chapter two of Questions of Character by Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. discusses moral codes and how leaders develop their own. Badaracco uses the story Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe to illustrate his message. The story centers around the leader of an African tribe named Okonkwo who is the “psychological and emotional counterpart of the strong, determined people who run most organizations today” (Badaracco, p. 31-32). At first, he is exactly the type of leader his tribe is looking for due to his strong moral compass. When the British attempt to change their way of life, Okonkwo tries to have his clan follow him in opposition. However, his tribe eventually rejects his leadership because his moral code “did not grow and evolve over the years” (Badaracco, p. 32). What originally made Okonkwo a great leader, turned “out to be signs of weakness, not strength (Badaracco, p. 32).
This story demonstrates the complexities of a leader’s moral code. Due to these complexities “it is critical for men and women in positions of responsibility to reflect, from time to time, on the soundness of their moral codes” (Badaracco, p. 34). Okonkwo’s life “offers several basic ways for leaders to test the soundness of their own deep convictions” (Badaracco, p. 51). His story also “warns us against viewing moral codes as simple, mechanistic devices” (Badaracco, p. 51). It is dangerous for a leader to think they are acting morally just because they believe they have a strong moral code. According to Badaracco (2006), a solid moral code has its roots in what the community values. It is dynamic and “requires an ongoing, open engagement with the moral and practical life that surrounds a leader” (Badaracco, p. 52). It is revealed in a leader’s failures as well as their reactions to them. Badaracco believes that flexibility is “the clearest sign of a good moral code” (Badaracco, p. 52). Okonkwo was so firm in his own beliefs that he ignored those around him that could have helped him develop this flexibility.
- How was Okonkwo in the story Things Fall Apart similar to the leaders of today’s organizations?
- What do good leaders do when faced with their own failures?
- What are the three standards that can be used to judge the features of one’s moral code?
- Why did Okonkwo fail when he attempted to act on his insights as a leader?
- What does the story of Okonkwo’s life tell us and warn us against?
- What does Badaracco believe a sound moral code resembles?
He was a hard worker whose drive and determination lead him to the top of his community. He was “the psychological and emotional counterpart of the strong, determined people who run most organizations today” (Badaracco, p. 32).
Good leaders “reflect on their reactions to them; they also look for explanations, and they start by looking at themselves rather than blaming others” (Badaracco, p. 41).
The fundamental features “can be judged by three standards: clarity, motive, and dominance” (Badaracco, p. 43).
Okonkwo did not vocalize his values and his code of ethics was not for a changing world. He needed “the ability to crystallize and powerfully communicate his convictions and ideas – in ways that resonated with the values and feeling of the people he wanted to lead” (Badaracco, p. 50).
His life reveals the complexities of one’s moral code. It “shows us the importance of a leader’s moral code and offers several basic ways for leaders to test the soundness of their own deep convictions” (Badaracco, p. 51). His story also “warns us against viewing moral codes as simple, mechanistic devices” (Badaracco, p. 51).
He compares a solid moral code to an “old, weathered tree” (Badaracco, p. 51). It has “deep roots in the values of communities and in the lives of their leaders” (Badaracco, p. 51). A good moral code also “grows and evolves with time” (Badaracco, p. 51).
One of the main ideas that this chapter discuses is that leaders must continuously reevaluate their moral codes. It is important that they do not become stuck on their past beliefs because “the clearest sign of a good moral code is flexibility rather than firmness” (Badaracco, p. 52). Flexibility allows leaders to examine situations and act accordingly. A static moral code can lead to the downfall of well-meaning leaders.
The Use Of Ethos, Logos And Pathos In The Book “Things Fall Apart” By Chinua Achebe
Ethos, Logos and Pathos. They are one of the most important parts of literature that can’t be replace. They provided the ethical appeal, the emotional and the conviction of logic to the novel and the reader. In the book “Things Fall Apart”, the author have used Ethos, Logos and Pathos Beautifully well one of the reason is because he is an African so he imagine how the village in the book, the culture and many more. But how can Ethos, Logos and Pathos of “Things Fall Apart” relate to our real world. The use of Ethos, Logos and Pathos of the book “Things Fall Apart” has given readers an idea of how the fictional world can have a close relationship with our real world.
Frist off Ethos of “Things Fall Apart” has a close relationship with our real world. In page 13, it describing how Okonkwo ( the main character of the story) have to work daily on his plantation from early morning to late afternoon or on the first page Okonkwo is established as “one of the fiercest warriors since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights”. Author of “Things Fall Apart” he somehow manage set up challenged to test the character limits and he doesn’t let the character to win or success without a challenged. Same in real life, you have to work your ass up to get your dream car or food to live, no one gonna give it to you for free. There is other example of Pathos and logos still waiting.
Second, How Pathos of Things Fall Apart relate to people in real life. ‘So when Ikemefuna came, which is the boy given to Okonkwo tribe to satisfy debt, come to the village; Okonkwo was given the responsibility to take care of him. Okonkwo treat Ikemefuna like his own son and he always proud of him. But when it time to finish Ikemefuna sentence. Okonkwo decide to go with Ikenefuna one last time before end up being him is the one who killed Ikenefuna’. So what is this have to do with Pathos? On page 63, the author shows the feeling of remorse in Okonkwo by saying that “did not taste any food for two days” and “did not sleep at night”. The author of this book want to create a multi faced character. Which mean outside, he want to show every one that he is a tough dude to doesn’t with nerve of steel stuff like that but inside he is kind and he want to take care of the whole clan and his dear family. So how is this related to the topic sentence? Well if you every lost like a family member or a beloved person like your lover you will understand the feeling. It a feeling of pain, confusion, scare about the future without them beside you, it a very mix feeling. One more to go.
Last but not the least, How Logos of Things Fall Apart relate to our real world. In page 114, When all the woman of the village is cooking for the wedding, A woman cries out, which make other woman curious and all they all about to leave but a priestess come out and said that if they all rush out, who gonna be in charge of the fire, what If the fire is out of control and burn everything then some of the woman stay and take care of the fire while other woman run out and see what happen. “It is logical that someone has to tend the stoves despite a cry for help”. So how is this related to us, well the author use logos to persuade the reader about normal logic that we have every day like when you have a flood in front your school and you can’t get in because you don’t want to wet your shoes, just take your shoe of and walk to their simple logic.
Although this book is a fiction but it shown us that how close between a fiction world to our real-life world is through Ethos, Logos and Pathos. But in this book, the author have create a story where he successfully create a character that have depth in him with Pathos. Overall this book is a great book, although there is many thing that is similar from the way that people in real life but there is also many other thing that it no similar to our real life world like why you have to killed one of your beloved adopted son because someone said so I doesn’t really add up.
The Portrayal of women in Things Fall Apart
Discussing the role of women in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart requires a thorough and unbiased reading of the novel. This might be challenging for someone from a western country as at first sight, the women in Things Fall Apart may seem to be an oppressed group with very little saying in the Igbo society, which is true to a certain extent. However, after analyzing the theme of gender thoroughly, it appears that the Igbo women have various roles of great importance in the Igbo society as portrayed in the novel. In this essay, the various roles women play in Igbo society and why they are portrayed that way will be analyzed based on the role women play in Igbo religion, their role as caretaker and their role as educators.
Firstly, women play a large role in the Igbo religion. Women regularly take on the role of priestess as mentioned in the novel. A quote from the book reveals that during Okonkwo’s childhood, “the priestess in those days was a woman called Chika. She was full of the power of her god, and she was greatly feared.” During the present time in which the novel is set, the priestess is Chielo. When Okonkwo’s daughter, Ezinma, is ill, he visits Chielo and “Okonkwo pleaded with her to come back in the morning because Ezinma was now asleep.” This is the first, and last time in the novel that we see Okonkwo plead with anyone. Chielo did not just order Okonkwo to give her Ezinma, but she threatened him as well. This displays the power that a priestess possesses in the Igbo society, and the fact that a woman can take on the role as a priestess and spiritual leader shows us the possible esteem of women in the Igbo society.
Another example of women playing a big role in the Igbo religion is the earth goddess, Ani. She is described as playing “a greater part in the life of the people than any other deity”. It seems unlikely that a society in which women are inferior to men, the most powerful deity is represented as a woman. Ani also plays a large role in the yam harvest. A quote from the novel reveals that it is important for all clan members to participate in the week of peace before the harvest, “to honor their great goddess the earth without whose blessing their crops will not grow”. Yams are often the symbol of masculinity in Things Fall Apart, so it is remarkable that the men are so reliant on the blessing of a female being.
Secondly, are viewed as the foundation of the clan and its people, as stated by Uchida. They can always be relied upon and they are the caretakers of the Igbo clan. These, most certainly, are roles that display a form of power and significance. In addition, just like the earth goddess, Ani, women have played an important role in the procedure of producing yams. We are told that “the women weeded the farm three times at definite periods in the life of the yams, neither early or late.” In this case, too, it is remarkable that the men depend on the women to carry out such an important duty because if done incorrectly, the yam harvest will fail.
Lastly, women play the role of educators for their children. The main way in which the Igbo women educate their children is by storytelling. As described in the novel, “Low voices, broken now and again by singing, reached Okonkwo from his wives’ huts as each woman and her children told folk stories.” It is through this act of storytelling that the Igbo children learn lessons of great importance about the human condition, are taught Igbo creation myths, such as the birds and the tortoise story, and master art of communication by learning how to retell these stories themselves. As stated in the novel, “Among Igbo, the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” Evidently, Igbo women play a significant role in the facilitation of education, which is core to their children’s ability to properly function within the Igbo culture.
To conclude, at first glance the role of women in Igbo society might seem inferior to that of the men, but after further analyzing, Things Fall Apart the women can take on very important roles in Igbo society that most certainly cannot be neglected.
The Use Of Proverbs In Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe
Proverbs are a vital form of communication within the Ibo culture. They are sayings that have their roots in folklore and are typically passed down from generations to generations. Proverbs aid the Ibo in defending their thoughts and opinions, however in the hands of Chinua Achebe – author of Things Fall Apart – through various hints that are placed within proverbs in the novel linking to the main protagonist of the novel – Okonkwo – proverbs are the exact things that lead to the Ibo culture’s eventual demise.
Firstly, the proverbs that describe the resilience and strength of Umuofia when a leader is lost in its presence hints at the demise of Okonkwo- therefore, the Ibo culture. For instance, this statement is exemplified with a proverb: ― “The clan was like a lizard; if it lost its tail it soon grew another”. This proverb is used to express the strength and powerful system that was established in Umuofia. Okonkwo was one of the most powerful men in the tribe, but after his exile to his motherland, he knew that someone was to take his place in the tribe’s hierarchy. The lizard’s tail represented a powerful leader in Umuofia, so when Umuofia lost a leader, it shortly would regain a new one. The use of comparing Umuofia to a lizard represents how the system in Umuofia was based on the strength of individuals and how people like Okonkwo, were to always represent the power and warlike credibility associated with a leader. The incorporation of this proverb in the novel allowed the reader to understand that Okonkwo was at square one and that he had lost many years of hard work that got him to the leadership position he once had. Okonkwo knew that he lost the chance to fight the impending foreign religion that was taking over Umuoifa as well as the opportunity to retrieve the highest titles in the clan, therefore admitting defeat to the invading group on behalf of the Ibo culture.
Despite the fact that Ibos set collective welfare and community sentiment above all, they give extreme significance to a man’s individual achievements and accomplishments. This is featured through the saying: ―”Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching”. This proverb is used to explain to Okonkwo that people who have never practiced or experienced something can be caught off guard when things change. This relates not only in the context that Nwakibie- a wealthy farmer- used it in, but it also related to the internal struggle Okonkwo faced throughout his entire life to be seen as a power strong man, unlike the image his father represented which was one of weakness. The use of Eneke the bird symbolizes the habits that one person can inherit through their life. The bird never had to learn to sit on the branch, because all it did was fly. This is because men have never shot without missing. This can also relate to Okonkwo who had never experienced failure or the feeling of situations in his control. Okonkwo was a very controlling man, so when the white man came during his exile, they established an area that caused Okonkwo to seem like a failure when he returned. He placed an enormous amount of pressure on himself to uphold his power, so when things were falling apart he loss the only thing he new how to do. This relates to the bird if it had to one day perch on the branch, it would fail because it never learned nor executed the action which could lead in its death. African and Ibo life are communicated through this proverb in the context of the situation involving Nwakibie, a rich farmer who determined that Okonkwo was fit to receive yams in order to start his own harvest. However, the proverb also related to the power hungry actions that consumed Okonkwo which lead to his downfall. The proverb communicates the importance of strength and balance in a leader, which Nwakibie saw and warned Okonkwo about in the beginning of the story. While people’s individual achievements – such as Okonkwo’s – are vital parts of Ibo life and culture, Ibos likewise maintain the standards of versatility and tolerance. For example, interdependence, social harmony and equality appear to be recommended by the saying: ―”He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart”. This specific proverb is used by Okonkwo to point out to Obierika- Okonkwo’s best friend- that they have lost their tribe to the white men and their new religious ideas, hence the reference to them “falling apart”. Okonkwo mentions the knife that the white men brought with them which represents the violence that was bestowed upon Umuofia when they fought back against the impeding imperialistic ideals.
Culture plays an important role in the African and Ibo culture. This proverb touches on the importance that their religion and customs such as their multiple gods and the evil forest had on their people. Even though some of the traditions may have been severe, to the natives it was apart of their life; their culture. It also discusses the weakness the native’s religion faced when the idea of Christianity was imposed on them. Many natives had to make the difficult decision to keep to their roots or join a new foreign group that preached many new ideas they have never heard before. This single proverb may be one of the most important in the novel because it captures the overall meaning and purpose that ‘Things Fall Apart’ represented. The proverb also came at a pivotal time in the novel, as it was when Okonkwo realized that they were losing Umuofia to the impending white aliens. It expresses his anger mixed with failure as he knew that their culture and traditions have fallen apart due to the knife of imperialism. In addition to the proverbs, for the Igbo, the storytellers that pull one in and the stories that resonate for one show his or her values. The deterioration of the community is followed in 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”.
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 has turned out to be threatened by the colonizers, which led to things falling apart.
With Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe uses proverbs to hint the audience of things falling apart for the Ibo culture with relation to the main protagonist of the novel- Okonkwo. Either through proverbs that Okonkwo had personally heard from his friends and relatives or through proverbs that had clear relations with Okonkwo’s mental thoughts and situations, the proverbs cumulatively implied the much foreseen demise of the Ibo culture – as stated by the title of the novel. Interestingly enough, the much foreseeable end of the Ibo culture was easier to predict after the similar comparison of Okonkwo with fire had been included within the novel- Such as Okonkwo and his “fiery behavior”, which had clearly symbolized Okonkwo as a fierce and “fiery” warrior that had to eventually come to a halt. Indeed, with the implications of such proverbs, Chinua Achebe hints his audience of things falling apart soon.