Things Fall Apart
No Longer at Ease
One of Chinua Achebe’s main socio-political criticisms in No Longer At Easeis that of corruption in Nigeria. From the moment the book begins the main character, Obi Okonkwo, is confronted with the issue of bribery. From the moment he arrives at customs to the point at where he gives in to taking bribes himself, the voice of Achebe lingers in the backdrop through the words. At first Obi is as critical as Achebe of bribery. He refuses to take bribes and also finds it necessary for himself to be a “pioneer” in Nigeria, bringing down corruption in government and instigating change.
It seems that corruption runs rampant and that everyone in Nigeria from the “white man” to the Umuofian Progressive Union participates in “seeing” people about what they need done. Men offer money, and women offer their bodies, in return for favors and services.
Obi believes that by not taking brwhile at the university in London, a paper in which he theorized on what would change the corruption of high positions in Nigeria.
He believed that the “old Africans” at the top of civil service positions would have to be replaced by a younger generation of idealistic and educated university graduates, such as himself. Achebe, however, is not as optimistic as Obi because he has Obi fail. Achebe takes us through the path of how someone like Obi can come to take bribes. The book begins on a negative note: starting with Obi’s trial. It is as if Achebe, by beginning in the end, is saying that Obi was doomed from the start. Obi’s position is a difficult one. He is born in Ibo, but he has been educated in England and often feels himself a stranger in his own country.
He has lost his love because of a rule of the past, he has suffered under great financial distress, he has exerted himself because of the expectations others have placed on him, and he has lost his mother. All of this brings the protagonist of the novel to fall into what he once had believed was a terrible and corrupt act. Still, Obi always feels guilt at taking a bribe, and he had decided to stop ibes he can make a difference. He had written, them. By having Obi get caught, even amid an aura of repentance and guilt, Achebe further illustrates the hypocrisy of all who have participated in bribes and now throw stones at Obi.
And, at the same time, it tells us that, although he got caught, Obi is still a pioneer because he has sworn to not do it again. It may be that his beginning as a “pioneer” is a rough one, one that has taken a curved path, but it does not definitely mean that he cannot still lead toward change. Still, perhaps Achebe may be saying that this is not true, and that Obi, ultimately, has failed at the task he set before himself. Whether the book is a tragedy (an unresolved situation) in Obi’s definition of the word or not is up to whether we believe that it is Achebe who is the greatest “pioneer” in the novel. In other words, it is the author’s critical voice that will lead others out of such corruption, if not by only making the world and younger generations of Nigerians aware of it.
The Influence of Education
One of the most important aspects of Obi’s life is that he was educated in England. This small fact molds the way others treat him and shapes what others expect of him. At the same time, the education he holds dear is also one for which he has felt guilt and one which has often made him a stranger in his own Nigeria. Upon his return from England, Obi is secured a position in the civil service, given a car, money, and respect. At the same time, however, he seems to be making constant mistakes because of what he has learned to be like, what he has come to understand, and what he has never learned. For instance, when Obi first arrives, he is given a reception by the Umuofian Progressive Union at which he makes several mistakes. He has forgotten how to act in his home or simply does not agree with its ways: he wears a short-sleeved shirt and sees nothing wrong with it, for it is hot, and he speaks casually in English, instead of the kind of heavy English that the Umuofians admire in the president of the Union.
His education has brought him status and has placed him in a position where others expect the most and best of him. No one can understand, in the end, how a man of “his education and promise” could take a bribe. Of course, Achebe, says this cheekily since many who have accused him and who also hold high positions are guilty of similar transgressions. Ironically, the only thing his “education” did not teach him was how not to get caught. Another important aspect of education, aside from the contradictions mentioned above, is the fact that Obi’s generation uses its education as a tool, paradoxically, against colonialism.
Sam Okoli, the Minister of State and also an educated man, verbalizes the position of the populace by saying that, yes, the white man has brought many things to Africa, but it is time for the white man to go. In other words, a man like Obi can use his education to take his country back into his own hands, even if his education is something that the colonizer gave him. It is important to remember that the only way to survive in a world where two cultures have met is to allow a certain amount of mixture to be used in a positive regard.
Tradition versus Progression
While Obi is in England he misses his home, longs for his family, and writes nostalgic poetry about Lagos and the sun and the trees of his homeland. He even begins to feel a certain degree of guilt, at times, for studying English and not being in Nigeria with other Ibo people. Nevertheless, this “English” has become a part of him, one that he cannot erase when he arrives back in Nigeria. Obi is in love with his native tongue, and it holds a place in his heart. At the same time, however, he is also comfortable with the English language.
The struggle of language is just one of the many examples of how African tradition
and English culture collide in this novel. Obi loves his family dearly, and since his family is symbolic of his roots, it can be said that he loves his roots dearly. This is not to say, however, that he will not rebel against his roots because of things he has learned elsewhere. Obi possesses the more liberal, and even “European,” belief that he may marry anyone he wishes, even though his family and his countrymen are opposed to it. And, even though he wishes to marry Clara in the end, despite her history, he is tied to his mother a symbolic traditional root … his blood. It is this struggle between tradition and European ways that is evidenced throughout and that is further amplified by the European presence of characters like Mr. Green.
And, aside from the obvious Mr. Green, there are also the more subtle presences of Europeans at lounges and restaurants throughout Nigeria serving English food and importing European beers. Some of these colonial importations and introductions are good, as is evidenced by the scene about the radiogram between Obi and the Minister of State. Nevertheless, the struggle exists, and it is obvious that Achebe has a strong negative opinion about colonialism as a whole.
Songs and Poetry
Throughout the novel there are songs and poetry that mean different things at different moments in time. When Obi is away at school his poetry is a kind of pull toward Nigeria, a calling and remembrance of home and yet, he writes these poems in English. While he is in Nigeria, there are many songs sung in his presence, some of which Obi also dissects using the English language but not without the Ibo pulling at his heart. It is as though, however, all of this poetry and song represents his desire for home and his heart’s need for it. He has studied poetry in England, but poetry also links him to home—these poetic contradictions are all appropriate to the novel’s ultimate struggle, which is that of the young man living under the end of a long colonial reign.
If allusions to English literature are what are constantly driving us toward England, it is the constant allusion to proverbs that drives us back to Africa. Achebe peppers his novel with proverb after proverb, making the novel specifically and strategically African. Achebe, like Obi, is using the tools of colonialism for his own purposes; he is making the European form of the novel his own.
The issue of language is omnipresent in the novel and is simply one of the many issues that arise out of a colonial society. Obi struggles between two tongues (Ibo and English) just as he does between two cultures. He was born into one language, and he obtained “knowledge” in the form of the other causing one of the basic problems throughout No Longer At Ease.
Mr. Green is symbolic of the European presence in Nigeria, as he is the epitome of the “paternal colonizer,” who has brought some good but mostly arrogance. He is very much the kind of Englishman who believes in the good of empires and thinks he can, as Obi points out, tell people how to live their lives.
The Umuofian Progressive Union
If Mr. Green stands for Europe in Obi’s struggle between tradition and European ways, then the UPU stands for the stubborn traditional ways of the past. Mr. Omo Omo stands for what Obi calls the “old African,” which is representative of a more submissive, (to the British) older generation of Nigerian. It is a generation that has more “fear” of the British than the younger generation, which longs for independence and freedom.
Analysis of Major Characters
The protagonist of the No Longer at Ease, Obi Okonkwo, is a young man born in Ibo in the Eastern Nigerian village of Umuofia. He was well educated and eventually sent to study law in England, a course of study he eventually changed to English. He stays in England for nearly four years, at times longing for the warm weather of home and all the other nostalgic qualities his memory supplies him during long winters abroad. Nevertheless, his arrival is less than what he has expected. Because he is educated, he is given a “European post,” and he works in an office whose ethics he finds repulsive. He stands firmly against the bribery that goes on and is opposed to his boss, a very old, white, and English colonial man named Mr. Green. Obi finds himself in a constant battle between traditions of the world into which he was born (that of the village and his traditional African roots), represented by the Umuofian Progressive Union, and the conventions of a changing world.
Obi finds himself at the beginning of a generation of change, caught between two worlds. He is unable to marry the woman that he loves because she is considered an outcast. He claims to want to marry her anyway because by the time he has children, the world will have changed, and it will not matter, just as it does not matter now that his father is a convert to Christianity (a conversion that was once quite scandalous). Still, Obi loses his fiancée, his mother, and finds himself in serious debt throughout the course of the novel. He must pay back his scholarship loan and is responsible for sending money home.
Eventually, Obi breaks under all of this pressure and gives in to the bribery he had stood against so idealistically, but he does not give in without guilt. At the end, he even claims to be finished with bribery, right before he is caught. Somehow it is too late, and his situation, his position of being caught between two shifting worlds, becomes almost impossible. Obi’s birth name is Obiajulu which means “the mind at last is at rest,” and this naming is a looming irony, considering the title of the novel and Obi’s predicament. Obi is ill at ease in both of his cultural experiences—he lies in the middle, a difficult place.
Clara is another character in the novel that is struggling in the changing world of pre-independence Nigeria. She is educated abroad, like Obi, and has a career as a nurse. She has a mind of her own and is often stubborn but shows herself to be quite caring, nevertheless. The first one-on-one conversation she has with Obi was regarding Obi’s seasickness (she had gone to his cabin, on their voyage home, because she had seen that he was feeling ill). She is also willing to compromise, and, although she finds Obi’s poetry boring, she is willing to listen to it. She is also willing to meet with friends of Obi’s that she dislikes. While she seems quite spoiled at times, she does her shopping in the slums and is willing to genuinely give Obi money to save him from trouble, even if he is unwilling to take it.
However, the truth remains that she is a difficult person, perhaps because she finds it difficult to let go of her past. She is strong-minded though not intellectual and finds herself bound to a tradition that seems unfair to both her and Obi. She is burdened by the fact that she is an osu, which means that because of her ancestral past, she is an outcast. It is for this reason that she cannot marry the man she wishes to marry.
Though Obi claims he does not care, he respects the ultimatum of his mother, which is that he must wait until she is dead, or she will kill herself if he marries Clara while she (his mother) is alive. This upsets Clara, and it is after this that they have their final break-up, after which Clara is hospitalized because of complications during an abortion. During this time Clara refuses to see Obi. From the beginning Clara’s romance with Obi was on unstable ground. Symbolically we need only to look at where Clara and Obi first began their relationship: in the water, on turbulent and fluctuating grounds.
The character of Mr. Green is representative of the white, European presence in Africa that resulted from the spread of England’s empire and its colonial hold on Nigeria. He is an arrogant man, who believes that the African is “corrupt through and through” and that it is the British who have brought Africans civilization and education. Nevertheless, Mr. Green seems to be committed to Nigeria, and there are characters in the book such as his secretary, Miss Tomlinson, who constantly support him in spite of his “strangeness.” Miss Tomlinson, however, is also a white Englishperson living in Nigeria. The narrator tells the reader that Green works long and hard hours, but this “quality” is constantly being uprooted by reminders of his colonial attitude and superiority complex.
He thus has a problematic relationship with Obi, who is an educated African in a European post. Still he believes in education, which makes it both ironic and fitting that he pays for the education of his steward’s sons. Mr. Green finds it a problem that Africans ask for weeks off at a time for Mr. Green finds it a problem that Africans ask for weeks off at a time for vacations. However, this tradition was actually started by the very Europeans who held these high posts in civil service prior to the Africans themselves.
These contradictions are constantly arising out of the character of Mr. Green. He is an archetypal figure of patriarchic colonialism that finds it difficult to relinquish such a position. In fact, when he thought Nigerians would attain independence, he had threatened to resign. Significantly, Mr. Green is a figure of an older world that is constantly present in the Nigeria of the late fifties, which Achebe portrays, only several years before its eventual independence, when a figure like Green will remain a problem but eventually become obsolete.
Obi Okonkwo is a young man, about twenty-six years old, who returns to Nigeria after studying in England at a university for four years. No Longer At Ease, begins with a trial against Obi that takes place a while after his return, and the novel then works its way backward to explain how Obi has come to be charged with accepting a bribe. The Umuofia Progressive Union (U.P.U) has given Obi a scholarship to study law in England, a scholarship that Obi has to pay back upon his return. And, thus, he leaves for England, stopping in Lagos on the way out. While in England, several things happen to him. First, he changes his course of study to English and abandons law. Secondly, he finds himself nostalgic for home, writing poems about Nigeria. Finally, he meets a girl named Clara at a dance in London but fails to make a good impression. However, the girl is Nigerian also, and on Obi’s boat ride back home, after nearly four years in England, he meets Clara once again.
This time, they begin a relationship. Once back in Nigeria, Obi stays, once again, in Lagos with his friend Joseph, trying to find a job and a place of his own. He also visits his own home village of Umuofia. Obi is quickly given a post on the Scholarship Board of the Civil Service and is also quickly introduced to the world of bribery, which is a world he wholeheartedly rejects with a strong idealism at first. This is indicated early on when a man offers Obi money in order for Obi to “pull strings” for his little sister’s scholarship. Obi is appalled and rejects the offer, only later to be met at home by the little sister herself who offers Obi her body in return for the scholarship favor. Again, Obi rejects this offer. Although Obi begins his life in Nigeria in an honest way, events do not go as he has planned.
First, Clara tells him that she cannot marry him because she is an osu, an outcast. Obi decides to ignore this and go against what most of his fellow countrymen believe to be a major transgression of custom, and he decides he will marry her anyway. Still, his economic hardship worsens, given that he has to send money home and that he is in debt. Obi then receives a letter from his father telling him that he must go home. When he arrives at home he sees that his mother is very ill. And, his parents tell him he must not marry Clara because she is an osu. In fact, Obi’s dying mother gives him an ultimatum: she tells him that if he insists on marrying Clara, he must wait until she is dead because if he marries Clara while she is alive, she will kill herself. Obi, therefore returns back to Lagos and tells Clara all that has transpired. Clara becomes angry and breaks off the engagement, afterwards hinting at the fact that she is pregnant. It is at this point when Obi arranges an abortion.
He does not have the money and needs to borrow it. Complications arise out of the operation, and Clara is hospitalized, after which she refuses to see Obi. Obi then returns to work, only to be notified that his mother has died. He does not go home for the funeral, and the U.P.U. discusses this failure on Obi’s behalf as a sign of his not having cared about his mother’s death. The truth, however, is that he was terribly saddened by her death, feels terrible remorse and guilt, and has entered into a state of mental unrest.
However, Obi awakes from this unrest with a new sense of calm. He feels like a new man, and it is at this point that he takes his first bribe, not without a certain degree of guilt. Obi allows this acceptance of bribes to become habitual. He continues to take bribes until the end of the novel, when Obi decides he cannot stand it anymore. He has paid off all of his debts and can no longer be a part of the corruption. It is at this moment, however, when he has taken his last bribe, that he is caught, which brings us back to the beginning of the novel.
Discuss the Significance of the novel’s title: No Longer at Ease. Answer for Study Question 1 >>
The title of the novel relates mostly to Obi and his predicament. He finds that he is “no longer at ease” inside African society, where bribes are taken, where he is shunned for wanting to marry the woman he loves because of his ancestry, and where he is looked down upon because he has trouble relating the people from the village where he was born. He is not “at ease,” either, however, within British sectors of society. He is able to speak fluent and good English, he is able to analyze and discuss, but he is unable to relate to someone like Mr. Green. He also feels himself, like other Nigerians, as is evidenced in the retrospective scene about London, a stranger in a strange land while in England.
He misses Nigeria and is in fact nostalgic for her when he is away. He understands what he must do for his country and that she is important; however, his return is different from memory. Memory is, in many ways, shattered when he revisits Lagos and his old home of Umuofia. Furthermore, by the end he finds himself uneasy with his lot in life: he is broke, he has lost Clara and his mother and has given in to taking bribes. Finally he feels guilt for this but it is too late.
There is also the irony of Obi’s name, which means “the mind is at last at rest.” It is supposed to mean that his father’s mind is at rest because he was born a boy after so many girls; however, when juxtaposed against the title of the novel it becomes the greatest irony of the novel because Obi is, of course, never, himself, “at rest.” The title is perfect because it describes a generation of Africans, in this case Nigerians, that find themselves living in between worlds, cultures, and on the verge of a post-colonial world.
Discuss the problem of language in the novel. Think about the problem as it relates to the characters of the novel as well as to Chinua Achebe. Answer for Study Question 2 >> Language is an issue that arises out of all colonized countries because the colonized are educated in the “language” of the colonized. The issue arises time and again in Achebe’s novel. When Obi returns from England, the members of the Umuofian Progressive Union are not impressed by Obi’s English because it is too casual. They like to listen to English when it is full and spoken in all its purple prose, in the way that the president of the UPU speaks it. This kind of English is a kind of class token. There is a certain amount of pride, ironically, in the language of the colonizer.
This may be, however, because those admiring this English are from an older generation. When Obi is discussing eating yams with his hands he says that the younger generation can do this because they do not fear being called “uncivilized”—the same may apply to their mode of feeling regarding language. The younger generation of Obi and Christopher, Obi’s friend, plays with language much more easily. For instance Christopher speaks different kinds of English, depending on what he is talking about and to whom he talking.
Obi claims that most educated Africans participate in this playfulness with language. Obi has his own problems with language as is evidenced when he attempts to speak or read for his family in his own language and finds it difficult. His mother tongue, although never replaced sentimentally, is often replaced by an English that comes with more “ease. He is able to translate into English and understand. Nevertheless, Ibo is still a special language—the language of home. It is the language that Clara speaks to him when they are alone for the first time, and it is the language he longs for while he is across the sea in England.
What are the main reasons for Obi’s change of opinion toward bribery? Answer for Study Question 3 >>
First of all, Obi never really believes that it is all right to take a bribe, he always seems to do so with a sense of guilt. Nevertheless, there may have been moments where it was simply a fall into complacency or even an act that arose out of the aftermath of desperation. Obi’s financial situation was poor, he owed money to many people, he had his scholarship to pay back, he had to take care of himself, and he had to send money home. The temptation to take a bribe was always present. However, what seemed to put him over the edge was not his financial burden but his loss of hope.
He had lost his mother and his lover, plus he found himself constantly out of place and ill at ease. He longed for complacency and contentment—for the kind of attitude that Christopher, an educated friend much like himself, was able to take on. Perhaps he even took the bribes to illustrate that he knew the way things worked that he, too, even if he had gone away for four years, knew how the ways of the Civil Service functioned. Still, this bribery was never something he was comfortable with but his feelings of unease only amplify by his guilt and his being caught.
Okonkwo as Morally Ambiguous Character
“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe describes tribal life in the jungles of Africa and speaks about Ibo community before the arrival of a white man. The main character of the story, Okonkwo, can be described as morally ambiguous because, on the one hand, he is a man of greatness, although, on the other hand, such qualities as violence and gender discrimination are inherent to him. Certain aspects of novel, as, for example, his suicide at the end, show that his character is of ambiguous nature.
Moral ambiguity is important for the overall theme of the story as the author is willing to prove that people are very rarely purely good or evil.
Thus, Achebe tends to create characters that are more applicable for the readers, not to create moral standing images. (Leach, p. 1053) Okonkwo is morally dynamic character. On the one hand, he is sensitive to his family, children and friends, but, on the other hand, he attempts to rebel his father exhibiting the tendency to violence and power of physical strength.
The author shows that his character is developed by the situation he is presented with. Thus, the character has to respond to swiftly changing situations and to act depending on them.
In the beginning of the book we see that Okonkwo is respected and he is satisfied with his success. He works hard towards his goal to become rich and famous. He is a man of great physical and moral strength. The issue of moral ambiguity arises, when Okonkwo simply discards his father not respecting and following the qualities he exhibits. Lack of self-discovery and moral resolution shows ambiguous nature of the character. (Noromele, 200) The main character flaw is presented by Achebe as: “But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness…It was not external but lay deep within himself.
It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father”. (Achebe, p. 13) Okonkwo’s reflections about tribal order, family members and social status prove that Ibo society associates men only with strength. Okonkwo’s son by his first wife is described as a woman-like being a serious insult. After Ikemefuna’s death main hero can’t understand his sorrow asking himself: “When did you become a shivering old woman? ” (Achebe, p. 62) The fear not to become fragile makes Okonkwo work hard accumulating material possessions and justifying his manhood – good harvest, wives and honors.
His fear suppresses him to express the feelings of sympathy, gentles, empathy and compassion. Instead, he refers to violence to escape from frustrated emotions. For example, he prefers “wrestling during his youth and later becoming a renowned warrior”. (Achebe, p. 69) Achebe shows that Okonkwo is man of action rather than a man of thought. Okonkwo earns respect of villages due to his violence, but he doesn’t realize that violence will lead him to moral destruction, exile and ultimate death.
Achebe illustrates that Okonkwo’s fear to become weak and fragile makes him commit numerous transgressions against social laws in community. Okonkwo beats his third wife during the Weak of Peace as the week is dedicated to the Earth goddess Ani. Achebe writes that Okonkwo “is not the man to stop beating someone half-way through, not even for fear of goddess”. (Achebe, p. 30) Okonkwo thinks that showing personal strength values more than displaying deference to goddess. The turning point in the story is when Okonkwo kills a young clansman at the funeral.
He is exiled for seven years. When Okonkwo returns to his village, he sees the presence of white men and establishment of the new law. Instead of being supported to take revenge, Okonkwo faces hesitation and doubt realizing that the spirit of clan is dead. Summing up, Okonkwo is morally ambiguous character presented as a man of greatness, although being ready to violate social and natural laws. Okonkwo works hard to become rich and famous, but he permits violence and intolerance to justify his manhood. It is Okonkwo’s fear of weakness that leads him to moral destruction.
In the end Okonkwo faces what he fears the most – weakness and inability to take action. In the image of Okonkwo the author shows that there are no purely good or evil personalities. Works Cited Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann, 1958. Leach, Josephine. A Study of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in mid-America. The English Journal, 60, 8 (1971): pp. 1052-1056. Noromele, Patrick. 22 March 2000. The Plight of A Hero in Achebe s Things Fall Apart. College Literature, available at http://www. highbeam. com/College+Literature/publications. aspx
Comparing Diverse African Cultures
Throughout every culture there are many similar customs, however it is the personal experiences that make the cultures different and diverse. In the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the main character Okonkwo lives in Umofia until the tribe exiles him for accidentally killing a man in his village. After seven years the people of his village allow him to return to Umofia, among his return there are white missionaries in his village that have come to introduce christianity to his people.
Okonkwo quickly realizes that his village is now unrecognizable. The short story Life Is Sweet At Kumansenu by Abioseh Nicol, expresses the strong relationships between the living and the dead that are present in African culture. The religious beliefs, social structures and attitudes toward the dead represented in Things Fall Apart are equally similar and different to the concepts present in the short story Life Is Sweet At Kumansenu.
Death is a natural part of the circle of life, and the way the dead are treated varies from culture to culture.
In Life Is Sweet At Kumansenu, a grandmother (Bola) and her granddaughter (Asi) receive an unexpected visit from the spirit of their son/father Meji. Except it is unknown to Bola and Asi that their loved one is a spirit until after he leaves them. Mr. Addai announces Meji’s death to the village on Monday, “‘But I tell you, he was here on Friday and left Sunday morning,’ Bola said. ‘He couldn’t have died on Friday.’” (Abioseh 10). The spirit of Meji had come back to his family to say his final goodbyes and thank his mother for all she had done for him.
In the African culture they worship and praise the dead, as the dead are a huge part of their lives and culture. Similarly in Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s people believe in spirits of the Nigerian tribes, also called the egwugwu. The people of Umofia both fear and respect the egwugwu, “A woman fled as soon as an egwugwu came in sight. And when, as on that day, nine of the greatest masked spirits in the clan came out together it was a terrifying spectacle.” (Achebe 78). The people of Umofia believe that the egwugwu have magical powers, and know that when they are present someone will most likely be taken as a sacrifice to the gods. The people of African descent treat the dead with great respect and think highly of them.
There are many different types of religion in the world, in many African cultures the people are polytheistic. In Things Fall Apart not only do they worship gods and priestesses but they idolize spirits too; like the ojbange. The ojbange is a child who has previously passed away, but has come back to haunt the mother and be reborn. “Some of them did become tired of their evil rounds of birth and death, or took pity on their mothers, and stayed.” (Achebe 70).
Some of these children did continue their lives and grow into adults, but most of them die as young children or infants. Also in Life Is Sweet At Kumansenu the mothers of ojbange children are ridiculed and mocked by the village people. “All the years of their married life, people had said she was a witch because her children had died young.”(Abioseh 6). Even though most likely it is not the fault of the mother that their child had died, the people of the village overlook that and continue to outcast them for their “witchcraft”.
A major social custom in African culture and many other cultures is food. Food has the power to bring a lot of people together. In Things Fall Apart we see this during the feast for Obierika’s daughters wedding shower. “As the evening wore on, food was presented to the guests. There were huge bowls of foo-foo and steaming pots of soup.
There were also pots of yam pottage. It was a great feast.” (Achebe 104). Everyone, all over the world, eats food; it is the recipes and different dishes that make the experience diverse. Similarly in Life Is Sweet At Kumansenu, Bola uses food to welcome home her son. “We must make a feast, we must have a big feast. I must tell the neighbors at once.” (Abioseh 3). Bola’s excitement that her son is home calls for a celebration. When having people over nine out of ten times food will be involved in some way. Food is something that most all people have in common, and is something they think about everyday.
The religious beliefs, attitudes toward the dead and social customs make Things Fall Apart and Life Is Sweet At Kumansenu equally similar and different. Two different African stories, from the same culture but that have different traditions and techniques is what makes our society different and diverse.
Things Fall Apart and the Case Against Imperialism
1. Achebe begins the novel with an elaborate description of the central character Okonkwo. What do we learn about the values of Umuofians through this characterization? 2. Discuss Okonkwo as an Igbo heroic character: how does he work to achieve greatness as defined by his culture? How does he differ from Western heroes? What are Okonkwo’s strengths and weaknesses? 3. Describe Unoka, Okonkwo’s father. What are Okonkwo’s feelings toward Unoka, and why? How does the example of his father shape Okonkwo’s character and actions? Would Unoka be viewed differently in a different culture? 4.
What do the early descriptions of Okonkwo’s success and Unoka’s failure tell us about Igbo society? How does one succeed in this cultural context? In the system of the taking of titles who seems to be excluded from opportunities to gain such success?
5. Describe the setting (time, place, culture) of the novel. Discuss Achebe’s presentation of the details of everyday village life in Umuofia, the values and beliefs of the Igbo people, and the importance of ritual, ceremony, social hierarchy, and personal achievement in Igbo culture.
How is social life organized? What are the important celebrations? What is the role of war, of religion, and of the arts? What is the role of the individual in relation to the community of Umuofia? Compare /contrast Igbo ways of life, customs, perspectives, beliefs, and values to those of your own culture. 6. What is the importance of drums in the novel?
7. What effect does night have on the people in Ch. 2? What do they fear? How do they deal with their fear of snakes at night? 8. What is the cause and nature of the conflict with Mbaino? 9. Consider the dual roles in the human and spiritual worlds played by the egwugwu and Chielo, the priestess of Agbala. 10. Chielo, the priestess of Agbala is introduced in Ch. 3. What does her power and status in Umuofia suggest about women’s roles in Igbo culture and religious beliefs? Later in the novel, note Chielo’s roles in the village. What are those roles? What does the Ch. 11 incident involving the priestess of Agbala tell us about the values of the culture? What side of Okonkwo is revealed by his behavior during that long night?
11. The chi or personal spirit is a recurring theme in the novel, a spiritual belief important to understanding the main character Okonkwo. Trace further references in the novel to the chi. What role does Okonkwo’s chi play in shaping his destiny? 12. Compare Obierika—a man “who thinks about things”–to Okonkwo. Is Obierika a kind of foil to Okonkwo? 13. Discuss family life and living arrangements in Okonkwo’s home. Describe Okonkwo’s relationships to his wives and children, especially to Ekwefi, Ezinma, and Nwoye. 14. What differing roles and functions do men and women have in Igbo society? 15. What is Okonkwo’s attitude toward women?
16. In this polygamous culture, men may take more than one wife and each household is enclosed in a compound. Each wife lives in a hut with her children, and the husband visits each wife in turn, though he has his own hut as well. Children are often cared for communally— an African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Compare/contrast the advantages and disadvantages of this social structure to our own family arrangements in the U.S. 17. Discuss the role of Ikemefuna: What is Okonkwo’s relationship with Ikemefuna? Compare Okonkwo’s feelings to Nwoye’s affection for Ikemefuna. Why does Okonkwo act as he does, despite the advice of others not to participate in the killing of Ikemefuna? 18. Why is Okonkwo disappointed with his son Nwoye? What values does Okonkwo associate with manliness? How does Nwoye relate to these values? Compare Okonkwo’s attitude toward Nwoye to Okonkwo’s attitude toward his daughter Ezinma (presented in Ch. 8).
19. How are white men first introduced into the story? Why might Africans suppose that they have no toes? What sorts of attitudes do the Africans express about white men? 20. The egwugwu ceremony of the Igbo is dramatized in Ch. 10. Who are the egwugwu and what are the functions of the ceremony? Compare the Igbo system of judgment in domestic affairs with that of the U.S. 21. What are these internal conflicts that erode the unity and integrity of the village? What part does Okonkwo play in the dissension? How does Okonkwo jeopardize his own authority within his community? 22. Part I presents Igbo life and culture before the coming of the white man and colonialism. In what way(s) can Things Fall Apart be considered a “response” to depictions of Africans in Western literature–or other images of Africa as portrayed in the Western media, film, books, etc., that you are familiar with? How does Achebe’s novel “correct” such European depictions of Africa and Africans, and offer you an Afrocentric (Africa-centered), rather than a Eurocentric (or Western-centered), perspective?
23. Even as Achebe works to educate his readers about African culture and to combat demeaning stereotypes, he does not present Igbo society as ideal or perfect. The portrait of this culture on the eve of its “falling apart” in Part I of Things Fall Apart is complex, sometimes contradictory and critical. What aspects of pre-colonial Igbo culture does Achebe seem to question or criticize? How does Achebe use characters like Obierika, Okonkwo, and Nwoye to offer such social criticism of Igbo society? How do the people of Umuofia react to change? 24. Discuss the theme of fate versus personal control over destiny. For example, Okonkwo’s father is sometimes held responsible for his own actions, while at other times he is referred to as ill-fated and a victim of evil-fortune. Which do you think Okonkwo believes is true? What do you think Achebe believes is true? 25. It is remarked on the back of the novel: “…Achebe’s keen awareness of the human qualities common to men of all times and places.” What are those qualities?
26. The villagers believe–or pretend to believe–that the “Supreme Court” of the nine egwugwu are ancestral spirits. In fact, they are men of the village in disguise. What does this say about the nature of justice in general, and in this village in particular? 27. Do you believe Achebe’s novel as being primarily concerned with black versus white tensions? If not, what else is going on here? 28. Certain aspects of the clan’s religious practice, such as the mutilation of a dead child to prevent its spirit from returning, might impress us as being barbaric. Casting an honest eye on our own religious practices, which ones might appear barbaric or bizarre to an outsider? 29. In an essay Achebe states: “Here then is an adequate revolution for me to espouse–to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement.” In what ways do you feel that this novel places Achebe closer to the fulfillment of this goal?
30. Discuss the sacrifice of Ikemefuma as being a parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus. 31. Of one of the goddesses, it is said: “It was not the same Chielo who sat with her in the market…Chielo was not a woman that night.” What do you make of this culture where people can be both themselves and also assume other personas? Can you think of any parallels in your own world? 32. There are many proverbs related during the course of the narrative. Recalling specific ones, what function do you perceive these proverbs as fulfilling in the life of the Ibo? What do you surmise Achebe’s purpose to be in the inclusion of them here?
33. While the traditional figure of Okonkwo can in no doubt be seen as the central figure in the tale, Achebe chooses to relate his story in the third person rather than the first person narrative style. What benefits does he reap by adopting this approach? 34. The District Commissioner is going to title his work The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Niger. What do you interpret from this to be his perception of Okonkwo and the people of Umuofia? 35. What role does religion play in the downfall of Umuofia? Discuss Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith’s methods of evangelization. 36. Critics have suggested that Things Fall Apart has a universal appeal. Do you agree? Explain your answer with examples from the text.
English Written Task
Recommended question: How and why is a social group represented in a specific way? Title of the text for analysis: Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe Part of the course to which the task refers: Part 3: Literature– text and context Key Points:
– Specify masculinity in Okonkwo’s perspective
– Check out how Okonkwo never shows his feelings because of worry – Explain the struggle of Okonkwo’s strength
– Discuss the importance of Okonkwo’s credibility of Umuofia – Explain why Okonkwo highlighted on his masculinity
In Chinua Achebe’s unique, Things Break down, analyses of masculinity were challenged.
Masculinity commonly means the qualities connected to males. Okonkwo, a strong wrestler and leader, had his own qualities of what manliness was. According to Okonkwo’s definition of masculinity, men existed as strong. Anything that did not demonstrate strength was thought about as weak, which was not in his meaning of masculinity. While masculinity suggested having qualities of a guy, Okonkwo was represented to reveal how he perceived a male truly specified through the aspect of fear and why he displayed manliness in this method.
Okonkwo hesitated of showing feelings, since exposing any beliefs showed flaws. Okonkwo liked Ikemefuna and treated him as if he was his own kid.
However, Okonkwo did not show any emotions towards Ikemefuna. He thought revealing love suggested weakness. Due to his fear of flaw, Okonkwo felt the feelings inwardly. The only real feeling he ever brought to life was anger. “The only thing worth showing was strength.” (Achebe, 1994, p. 28) Showing emotions such as happiness or unhappiness was a representation of inflammation, which Okonkwo hated. If Okonkwo showed any feeling at all, it would be proof that he was weak. In one scenario, Okonkwo needed to select his track record of a strong male authority or his devotion to Ikemefuna, the one he considered to be his child. This substantial struggle to prove Okonkwo’s strength was questioned when he was required to kill Ikemefuna. Okonkwo killed Ikemefuna when Ogbuefi Ezeudu bought him to not touch the young boy. (Achebe, 1994, p. 57) The guy cleared his throat, prepared and raised his machete, Okonkwo averted. He heard the blow.
He heard Ikemefuna cry ‘my father, they have killed me!’ as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak. (Achebe, 1994, p. 61) Okonkwo was afraid people would think that if he did not kill Ikemefuna, whom he loved, he would seem weak. His character to show others that he was not weak was a greater importance than his attachment for the boy. He wanted to be brave and keep his reputation as a wrestler and a leader of Umuofia. There was one instance that Okonkwo went against his definition of being manly. This showed the vulnerability of Okonkwo, which showed why he was afraid of being weak.
Okonkwo became depressed after the death of Ikemefuna. He did not sleep and did not eat any food. (Achebe, 1994, p. 63) Okonkwo was compared to a “shivering old woman,” (Achebe, 1994, p. 65) showing that only woman showed their emotions. If a man could not get over the death of someone he loves, he was nothing more than a woman, who was generally the one that mourned the death of another. Being depressed over a death was a sign of gentleness, which Okonkwo did not desire. Shivering implies weakness because when people shiver, they shake, are unstable, and are not usually strong enough to hold themselves together. So, Okonkwo could not control himself in this situation.
It also showed fear and a loss of composure, two things that a man should never express. The use of the word ‘old’ also showed how fragile he was becoming in this instance. It was a similar idea when Okonkwo thought he was old because old people in general were weak; as people get older, their heart and muscles were degenerated, so the quality was not durable. There was a reason why Okonkwo emphasized his masculinity. Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, was poor, weak, lazy, a failure and a coward. Unoka was in a lot of debt. He loved gentleness and idleness. He did not like the sight of blood. (Achebe, 1994, p. 6) In contrast, Okonkwo entered upon to be strong and hardworking, not wanting to be gentle or idle. The strong wrestler was not scared of blood at any moment, showing he was a strong individual that can deal with death of others. (Achebe, 1994, p. 67)
From then on, Okonkwo wanted to show Umuofia that he was not similar to his father in any way; he wanted to be better than his father because he did not want to be known as a son of a borrower who did not give money back to the lender. As a result, Okonkwo worked to not be a failure like his father. He changed how he behaved as a man to be successful. (Achebe, 1994, p. 4) Okonkwo worked hard to have a title in Umuofia and to supply money for his family.
Masculinity was shown in the fear of weakness because Okonkwo represented masculinity through his behavior. Masculinity was depicted in Okwonko’s fear of weakness. In some parts of this novel, Achebe showed the reader the wrong ways to be a man by showing what was weak, causing the readers to believe the complete opposite of how a man should truly act. Okonkwo was afraid of being weak because it would directly contradict his idea of how he should act as a man. He strived for strength and power. By showing his aversion of weakness to the readers, it gave Okonkwo’s definition of masculinity. Okonkwo viewed masculinity as strength, bravery, successful, and feelings of anger.
Achebe, C. (1994). Things fall apart. New York: Anchor Books.
Things Fall Apart Okonkwo's Fears
Everyone shows fear. Fear can cause an unpleasant emotion due to someone or something being dangerous, painful, or a threat. Many main characters in novels show fear. In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Okonkwo, the main character, who struggles with fear and battles it to become stronger. Okonkwo struggles with fear of becoming like his father, fear of looking weak, and fear of his children not becoming like him.
Okonkwo shows fear of becoming like his father.
Okonkwo reveals his fear of becoming like his father in his thoughts.
Okonkwo fears for himself he will not become like his father (10). Okonkwo wants to be a prosperous person and does not want to deal with the idea of being lazy and good for nothing. Okonkwo shows fear of becoming like his father through his actions. Okonkwo asks to borrow yam seeds from Nwakibie and works hard to grow his farm (21). This shows Okonkwo values hard work and effort and does not want to fall into debt like his father. Okonkwo would rather be the complete opposite of Unoka and become more independent. Okonkwo shows fear of becoming like his father through his words. While Okonkwo speaks to Nwakibie at his hut, Okonkwo says, “I know what it is to ask a man to trust another with his yams, especially these days when young men are afraid of hard work. I am not afraid of work (21).”
This shows Okonkwowants to succeed with his farm and not go into debt like his father. He is more determined to work hard on his farm. Okonkwo shows fear of becoming like his father. Okonkwo shows fear of looking weak through his actions, thoughts, and words. Okonkwo shows fear of looking weak through his actions. Okonkwo drinks wine from the head of a man he killed in war (10). Okonkwo wants the Ibo tribe to look at his social status as a strong warrior. Okonkwo shows fear of looking weak through his thoughts. Okonkwo contemplates killing Ikemefuna (61). Okonkwo did not want to look weak even though he cared for Ikemefuna and did not want to kill him. Okonkwo shows fear of looking weak through his words. During a kindred meeting, Okonkwo says “This meeting is for men (28).” Okonkwo has a chip on his shoulder. He puts others down to make himself look stronger than the rest. Okonkwo shows fear of looking weak. Okonkwo shows fear of his children not becoming like him through his actions, thoughts, and words. Okonkwo shows fear of his children not becoming like him through his words.
Okonkwo says “I will not have a son who cannot hold up his head in the gathering of the clan” (33). This shows Okonkwo wants his son, Ikemefuna to understand the traditions of the clan. He wants Ikemefuma to go along with it. Okonkwo shows fear of his children not using his values through his thoughts. For example, Okonkwo wishes Nwoye would become more like Ikemefuna. This shows Ikemefuna has the qualities of being a son a father would be proud to have. Last, Okonkwo shows fear of his children not becoming like him through his actions.
For example, after one of Okonkwo’s cousins notices Nwoye among the Christians, he informs Okonkwo. Okonkwo then chokes Nwoye by the neck, demanding where he has been after he returns (151). This shows Okonkwo was against Nwoye changing religious beliefs, he wanted Nwoye to stay with the original Ibo religious beliefs like he did. Okonkwo shows fear of his children not becoming like him. Okonkwo struggles with fear of becoming like his father, fear of looking weak, and fear of his children not becoming like him. Many main characters struggle with fear internally and externally. Fear can cause the character to become scared, angry, or give them an unpleasant feeling they battle to become stronger.
Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart
In Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, the Ibo society has a strict system of behavioral customs that are assigned by gender. These customs restrict the freedom of Ibo woman and help to reinforce generation after generation the notion that Ibo men are superior to women. In Achebe’s essay An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, he claims that Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, despite it’s insights, ought to be eradicated from literature as an appropriate piece of work on the argument that it is racist.
Achebe focuses on gender roles and avoiding stereotypes to dismiss the racist attitude towards Africans in his novel by bringing the reader down to the level of his unbiased narration of a historical fiction novel. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe is cautious to avoid typical stereotypes describing white men. When the first white man is introduced, he is described as “… not an Albino. He was quite different” his presence is foreign and not understood, but not dangerous.
Achebe creates no account of the man being atrocious.
In fact, throughout the entire story Achebe consistently attributes those same qualities to the white men later on in the novel; with the exception of The District Commissioner, who is described as “strict and unreasonable”. Achebe even puts white men in a good light; Mr. Brown constantly reminds the people of Umuofia that they should send their children to his church to learn to read and write so that other white men will not come to institute a new government and destroy their culture.
By not negatively chronicling that white men are evil through narration and characterization, Achebe successfully lets loose the bounded stereotype of evil white men that are against African culture. Achebe affirms that in Ibo society, the condition of weakness is strongly associated with women. Therefore, a man being declared “woman-like” is an extreme insult. Unoka, Okonwko’s father, embodies the counter-values that stand in opposition to the rigid social ideal of the tribe.
Okonkwo is ashamed when he learns that “agbala” was not only another name for woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title when this insult is applied to his father. By stereotyping based on titles that are indigenous to Ibo culture rather than stereotypes that are demeaning to a race, Achebe is able to maintain an unbiased narrative in Things Fall Apart. Achebe does not completely demean woman in his story; it only seems as though that this is the case because he creates distractions to shy away from racism.
In Ibo society, women marry to add to their father’s wealth, become subservient to their husbands, continue on their husband’s legacy through child birth and emanate the essence that women know the secret of life, since they are the source of it. This is evident when Uchendu ask “Can you tell me, Okonkwo, why it is that one of the commonest names we give to our children is Nneka, or ‘Mother is Supreme’? We all know that a man is the head of the family and his wives do his bidding. A child belongs to its father and his family and not to its mother and her family.
A man belongs to his fatherland and not to his motherland. And yet we say Nneka–‘Mother is Supreme. ‘ Why is that? ‘ ‘A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme. ‘” Although the characters in the story never recognize the full capacities of women, they are described as emotionally strong.
Achebe has an amazing gift for spotting bias that hides in plain sight; adapting against those anecdotes and historical asides, he creates something resembling a coherent story that necessitates dropping much that is important. Things Fall Apart possesses very deep meanings beyond that of avoiding stereotypes. Achebe purposely degrades women to not come across to the reader as racist, however his main priority is conveying lessons that are forgotten through literature. People who pick up a copy of Things Fall Apart will embark on journey that will let them see the subjugation of the African natives from their own perspective.
The main character in Things Fall Apart
Is Okonkwo a better man than his father? Why or why not? Were the Christian missionaries good men or not? Explain
The main character in Things Fall Apart is a man whose name is Okwonkwo. Okwonko’s father is Unoka. He is characterized as a lazy, with the burdens of unaccountable debts, and with no titles to owning any land. These certain titles were basically the measurement of one’s success during their lifetime. In Okwonko views his father as a failure and is relectant to following the footsteps of becoming a failure like his father.
Unlike Umofia, Okonkwo is a strong, hard-working, respected, and well known man in his village. Okonkwo bases his life and focuses his entire life on his will and desire to prove that he was a better man than his old man was. It is evident for readers to observe that Okonkwo is indeed very much ashamed of his father, for he was weak and died with no major accomplishments that were fulfilled through his life.
Due to Okonwo’s fear of failure, weakness, and ending up like his own father, he worked hard to achieve a better life. However, because of this same reason, his very own life starts to “fall apart” when certain things happen throughout the story. Like any other character in any story, Okonkwo has many character setbacks. In order to demonstrate his masculinity and manliness, he uses rage, anger, and violence. These are the certain characteristics that later on will see through to his own destruction.
By taking a quick look at Okonkwo’s life, it is evident to see that Okonkwo was a failure. Beginning with the death of Ikemefuna, where his family blames Okonkwo. Okonkwo is greatly affected. Not only does he become sleepless and restless, but he begins to drink away his sorrows, which contributes to his life slowly falling apart. Then, Okonkwo was evicted from his clan for several years, which caused him to lose his land and animals. Slowly, Okonkwo is seen slipping farther and farther away from his goals and dreams of being a successful being. Lastly, when his oldest and most favored son, Nwoye converts to the religion of Christianity, Okonkwo’s life was coming to a ruin. One can clearly see that Okonkwo has not only lost hope and faith in his friends and family, but in himself.
Ironically, at the end of the novel, Okonkwo ends up killing himself. It is obvious to see that he did not accomplish any goals and that he was doomed, due to the fact that he had become just like the person he did not want to be, his father, a failure. Even though Okonkwo disagreed and despised his father’s beliefs and way of life, both father and son died unhappy and by themselves.
I think that the Christian missionaries had good intentions and are not necessarily bad men, however, because the novel is based on the perspective of the tribe, the Christian missonaries are put in a spot to where they are portrayed as the bad guys. The Christian missonaries try to descend upon the tribe with their Western beliefs and their way of living and convert the tribe into their religion of Chrisitanity. The beliefs and values of the tribe are ridiculed and looked down on.
In other words, the Christian missonaries intrude on the foundation of the tribes whole existence and way of life. The tribe did not comprehend Christian customs because they have lived the way they have been living for so such a long time. The tribe has only been familiar with their own culture, making it extremely hard for the people to adapt to the Christian way. At the same time, at first, the Christian missionaries hardly understood the tribe itself. They had minimal amount of knowledge on their lifestyle. It was not fair for the Christian missonaries to quickly judge the tribe and to claiming that the tribe’s religious beliefs were false.
The tribe has lived for generations and generations just fine without their existence being touched and violated. Although the Christian missonaries where just trying to enlighten the clan and improving the tribe’s way of living, it seems that they have tampered with the structure of the whole society. If someone lives a certain and specific way their whole life, it is hard for them to adapt to such drastic and dramatic changes. Also, not everyone chooses to convert and change their whole way of living. It is difficult to not succumb to these changes and having to watch your close family members and friend take a whole different path. This makes it very hard on the people of the tribe. This can be seen with Okonkwo and Nwoye when Nwoye converts to Christianity.
At first, the Christian missonaries seem like madmen and absolutely insane to the tribe. The proclamation of evil ways and how the tribe’s gods were false only attacted the people of the tribe who were outcasts. Nonetheless, with Christianity also came along many more positive things such as schools and hospitals. Christian missonaries also taught the tribe that they can create higher income with their abundant resource, palm oil. Even though the Christian missonaries seem like they were bad men, I think that they were only trying to help.
“Things Fall Apart”: Role and Treatment of Women
“Things Break Down” by Chinua Achebe describes tribal life in the jungles of Africa. In fact, the author discusses Ibo community prior to the arrival of a white guy. Achebe supplies comprehensive summary of Ibo community translating their saying and myths and evaluating the status and role of women in Ibo society and in pre-colonial Africa. From the really starting it is seen that the world in the story is patriarchal, overbearing and hierarchical. Gender discrimination exists in all spheres of life.
Life in community is andocentric meaning that male takes primary positions in society, whereas ladies are dealt with as absolutely nothing essential. In specific, females are thought about as a part of men’s acquisitions. As other halves, they “can be found in numerous numbers, sandwiched between yam barns and titles. These 3– partners, yam barns, social titles– are the highest accolades for the effective farmer, warrior, and man of worth”. (Achebe, 23) For instance, Nwakibie has 9 spouses and thirty kids and, thus, he is thought about to be of the highest status.
The main character of the story, Okonkwo, is mentioned to dislike whatever dealt with as frail and weak. His reflections about tribal order, relative and social status prove that Ibo society partners strength just with males and weakness with females. For example, Okonkwo’s son by his very first better half is referred to as a woman-like being a serious insult.
After Ikemefuna’s death primary hero can’t understand his sadness asking himself: “When did you end up being a shivering old woman?” (Achebe, 62) In such a method the author specifies that women are oppressed and subordinated. Subsequently, men are privileged enough as they are enabled to make decisions in contrast to women. As the author composes, ladies remain in the prison of acquiescence, merely due to the fact that of personal weakness which adds to the suppression of females along with since of a mix of community’s control.
The next moment to mention is treatment of women in Ibo community. The author notes that beating a wife is rather common practice within society. Actually, the story highlights two examples when the second wife of Okonkwo is beaten simply because of not coming home to prepare meal. However, Okonkwo is punished because of severe beating simply because he has dared to beat his wife during the Weak of Peace. Nevertheless, he doesn’t stop and beats her again when she refers to him as “guns that never shot”. (Achebe, 89) The positive moment is when the mentioned severe beating comes before egwugwu, the decision is made in favor of beaten wife, though a man wonders, “why such a trifle should come before the egwugwu”. (Achebe, 89)
Attitudes towards women is rather chauvinistic and men think that women’s place is at home, “lumps together women and chillun and chickens and cows and wants to be a big voice” in community affairs. (Achebe, 27) Treatment of women in Ibo community is strongly by gender discrimination and oppression meaning that women were something like private property being able only to keep house and to bear children. From the very first pages of the a novel the author illustrates that it is a men’s world and men are dominating force in the society and, what is more outrageous, in family relationships. The author claims that it is customary for males to think only they have a right to decide what, when and how to do things and arrange events.
Nonetheless, the author shows that women are assigned important role despite discrimination and oppression. For example, “women painted the houses of the egwugwu”. (Achebe, 84) Certain respect is paid to the first wife of Ibo man: “Anasi, Nwakibie’s first wife, had not yet arrived and the others could not drink before her”. (Achebe, 22) However, real importance of women appears after Okonkwo is exiled to his motherland. His uncle explains how Okonkwo should view his exile: “A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland”. (Achebe, 99) Thus, mothers should always comfort their sons when bad times come because mothers are supreme.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann, 1958
Dead Man’s Path by Chinua Achebe
The story is generally depicting the theme which is said to be modernity versus old. The old is characterized by the villagers which still continues doing their rituals and also it is characterized by the pathway (Nerdicity).
The new or modernity is characterized and depicted by the institution and the new headmasters who aimed for renewing almost all of the old staffs at the school (Nerdicity).
The institution, as depicted in the story as the explanation for the theme, tends the humanity of that generation to be liberated with regard to newer and or modern things (Nerdicity).
They are also trying to liberate the villagers that the villager’s old beliefs and practices are wrong which includes the practice of their belief about the pathway (Nerdicity).
The theme in the story is about Modern versus Old. It is said that Chinua Achebe came up to this theme based on how the new Nigerian thinks. The new Nigerian’s way of thinking explains their ideologies on beautifying gardens (Nerdicity).
In this theme as explained in the story, Michael Oli wanted a development at the institution abut the problem is; the villagers are a source of hindrance to his development plan for the school.
The theme is explaining how certain people wanted a more liberated and modernized society for a better living but still there are some who does not want to go with this modernization issue. They are contented following their old practices.
The theme also explains how extinction of old practices including tradition and cultures because of the rapid development and its being imposed to the people.
The theme also explained that imposing new ideas to people who believes and appreciates old practices is a hard thing to do that will need your patience and understanding.
Imposing new is better for it will benefit a lot of aspects in life but it will be better if instead of making all things new, people can combine new and old instead that will be more effective for everyone as it won’t be a source for any conflict.
Example of new versus old is the modernity versus traditional.
It conveys the lesson which states that traditions should not be changed into new ones and it should also be not ignored.
The theme is said to be effective for people to realize that old beliefs are said to be influential and important so it should not be disregarded. Traditions are somehow an alternatives in teaching morals, it is said to be much more influential because there are lessons that people can learn through this (Cindy).
About the theme
The author created the theme because he wanted people to be informed and to realize that endorsing such modernity over traditional matter in a bad approach will create a negative consequence (LLC).
Chinua Achebe wanted to impose that when a certain person intends and tries to block a certain essential aspect of that person’s existence, the act could create or lead into a negative reaction and consequences (LLC).
This is depicted when Michael Obi blocked the path where it is part of the villager’s important ritual in respect for their ancestors whenever someone dies.
The theme was generally made for people to see the negative impact of modernity to traditional activities.
The impact in the story depicted through the theme is explaining that in order to convince people to accept certain ideologies, the one who imposes should also possess the characteristics that others would respect (LLC).
This characteristic is important in order for other existence to accept the ideologies that a certain person imposes (LLC).
Indeed, the story expresses universal truth because people can’t deny the fact that there are really some people at any part of the world that endorses betterment in certain people but does it in a negative approach.
People would be insulted through this kind of approach that provokes them to start a misunderstanding and conflict to each other.
An example of this is when a certain person preaches something according to his views and beliefs.
If a certain person imposed his ideologies and forced people to believe by threatening their lives or their own beliefs, the act will cause into major conflicts.
This statement is an example situation based on the theme of the story by Chinua Achebe.
Symbols used in the story
In the story, there are a lot of instances that symbolizes the given theme.
One of this is when Michael imposed the modernity by renewing almost all of the old professors in the school and changing them into new and younger ones (Classroom).
Michael could have imposed his aim of modernity through adding new teachers hence still allowing the old ones to perform their teaching in the school but he did the other way.
Michael aimed to remove the villager’s right to practice their important rituals instead of respecting it (Classroom).
Michel did not respect the rituals and beliefs of the villagers hence he also disregarded what the priest advised him.
Michael blocked the pathway to avoid the villagers from walking though it and he did it to prevent them from ruining the property (Classroom).
By doing the certain act, Michael is said to have insulted the villager’s beliefs and ritual practice. He could have just let the villagers take that certain part and took another part to accomplish his project due to beautifying the school.
Lastly is when Michael ignored what the villagers asked of him to be able to resolve the arising conflict. The villagers asked him to do a heavy sacrifice in order to conciliate his fault from the villager’s ancestors (Classroom).
This is implying the disrespect to someone’s beliefs. Instead of following what they asked of him, he ignored the idea and continued on imposing what he wanted.
The school ground as the pathway, this symbolizes the tradition and beliefs of the villagers. It is explained in the story that it is a part of the villager’s ritual to take that certain path whenever someone dies.
The blocking of the pathway; this symbolizes the unacceptance and disrespect of Michael as the main character. He disrespected the villager’s practices which they’ve done always.
The author came up to the theme by implying his view on respecting one’s beliefs and traditions. If a certain person wants his ideologies to be accepted, he should impose it in a kind manner.
If a certain person wants to succeed imposing his ideas, he then should also respect other’s ideologies to prevent things from leading into conflicts and negative reactions.
The Author of the story in my opinion is aware that tradition might be forgotten because of the developments and liberations that the society imposes.
Achebe showed through his story about his respect to certain people’s beliefs even if it is not evidently true, thus it is everyone’s right to practice their cultural and traditional beliefs as long as it wont be a reason for other people’s oppression (Cindy).
This is what the theme implies through the story Dead Man’s Path by Chinua Achebe.
Cindy. “Dead Man’s Path.” 2007.
Classroom, The Global. “Dead Men’s Path
LLC, Mega Essays. “Chinua Achebe, Dead Man’s Path.” 2007.
Nerdicity. “Dead Man’s Path.” 2006.