Multicultural Perspectives In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Societies began to adopt multiculturalism in the mid-twentieth century increasingly. The historical diversity was due to immigration, slavery, and colonization. In particular nation, the divisive nature began to raise necessary questions as diversity made the society to divide into the elites and oppressed. Therefore, it led to clashes between the majority and minority over issues such as political representation, land ownership, regional autonomy and language rights. Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” demonstrates how cultural collision was brought in Nigeria by colonization as they used divide and rule policy to disrupt the already set African societies. The British came to African nations to elevate the level of civilization; therefore they used Africa leadership to gain access to people at first through commercial activities. Therefore, multicultural perspectives were significant in society according to Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.” The spread of western education and Christianity brought cultural changes in Nigeria. The locals were hesitant to adopt the new system of education and worship as they wanted to preserve their traditional way of doing things. They knew that the introduction of education would undermine their traditional culture and education system brought in by the British would slowly diminish the use of their beliefs and language. Indeed, during the colonial era, the distinct ethno cultural identities lost. Achebe was motivated to write the novel “Things Fall Apart” due to the enthusiastic feelings he had upon his people and culture.

The novel shows how the Igbo people had self-confidence in their culture as their roots were too strong to be destroyed. In the initial stages of the book, Achebe shows how colonialism weakened the dignity of the people of Igbo. He clarifies that before colonization, the philosophy of Igbo people had great beauty and value through their designed poetry that protected and praised their culture. Long before the British arrived, Africans had established their own cultural identity, and they had leadership that guided them in most of the community’s decisions. The cultural conflict between the present and the past erupted in African setups due to British imperialism which destructed the religion and traditions of Igbo people. However, resistance paved its way as Africans needed to reserve their traditions and beliefs. Modernity brought negative cultural aspects such as racism and therefore, Achebe use of names in the novel utilizes this theme. Things Fall Apart is a novel used as modern African literature as it depicts the impact of colonial rule on African culture and it is a critique of the colonial era. Achebe was able to articulate the reality of African culture through postcolonial literature by use of his novel. His description for the civilization of African societies reveals the truth issues that influenced the conversion of Igbo culture through Christian missionaries and imperialism. Nigerian heritage culture was destructed through the collision of the British and Africans. For instance, Achebe describes how the Igbo people tried to resist the western culture and norms as they reorganized their setup, but the internal dilemma in their society was a setback. Achebe expressed his ideas in English because he wanted to convey the real picture of Igbo and other African cultures both in colonial and pre-colonial period indicating that these communities had a history.

The Nigerian people demanded the recognition of their culture because they identified collision between the ethics of the western culture and their customs. Achebe retrieved the title of the novel from the poem, “The Second by W.B Yeat. He compares the poem to the situation in Igbo where male domination over traditional matters was wrapped up by the coming of the British. Igbo people criticized the British rule, and they showed the anxiety of losing their dignity to the foreigners. Before the invasion of European powers in Igbo land, they had their values, dignity, culture and they had a way of consolidating other neighboring societies. The novel set up is on two villages out of the nine Igbo villages; Mbanta and Umuofia. The novel consists of three parts; the first part explains the Umuofia village before the coming of the European. The second part describes how Okwonko is exiled to Mbanta his mother’s background after he sinned against the gods of the earth. It also explains how the European came to take over the nine villages in the form of Christianity and trade relations thereby exploiting the traditional culture of Igbo people. The third part explains the struggle for change and the death of Okwonko and traditional tribal system of governance.

Achebe introduces the complex customs and laws of Umuofia people and how they tolerate each other. The focus of the novel was on Okwonko who was the protagonist, and his character in the novel is the background of the struggle of Africans towards gaining independence. In the village, Okwonko is honored and respected for his bravery in war as well as being considered the warrior of the village. He resisted the new religion and political system that was brought by British people for the sake of protecting his status in the community and pledged his loyalty to his people. His position in the society was controlled by the traditional customs and laws which had no room for betrayal. However, some customs were brutal to the locals who viewed Christianity as the way to go thereby collaborating with the white people. For instance, the killing of Ikemefuna and the twin newborns brought tension which led to Okwonko’s son revolt and joined Christianity. The people of Igbo were left into confusion in trying to compare the two religions as they saw the benefits of Christianity as well as the ugly side of their traditions.

Multiculturalism is a well-articulated theme in the novel as two different cultures were clashing each other that is traditional African culture and European culture. Achebe highlights in the fiction that colonialism was about to reshape the African continent in terms of politics, economy, ideology, and religion. The author uses locusts as a symbol to represent the European powers that came to destroy the African culture by replacing it with western culture. The Igbo people at first were happy with the coming of the “locust” as they were a source for “food” without anticipating the future. In contrast, the symbol “locust” turned against them destroying their traditional set up by imperialism. Igbo people were aware of the destruction that was to be brought by western imperialists through the Oracle. In Abame, the first European missionary was killed because the oracle prophesized to the locals the negative impacts of the white people. However, they did not understand anything about Christianity and the white people invasion, but their belief in their leaders triggered them for the killing. The people of Abame were zealous to their values and culture they refused to correlate with the white culture but obeyed the orders of the oracle.

Furthermore, the first missionaries to arrive in Mbanta demanded that they needed to talk to the king of the community, but the locals were not aware of such leadership. With the collaboration with the British government back in their motherland, the colonizers set up their district mission and minor courts to settle issues in the area. Other foreigners who were non-Africans and non-imperialists saw the oppression of the British rule and fled away as a result. The foreigners recognized the bad treatment the colonizers used in the rule over the village of Mbanta. The Igbo people were unhappy with the new system as they believed in democratic systems. They could sit down together and made decisions affecting their culture and even chose leaders in a consensus manner. Achebe describes how the African system accommodated and tolerated each other, but the British colonizers viewed it as uncivilized and confused thus establishing their governance system.

The arrival of the white man destroys African culture as they fail to recognize the worship manner of the locals. They term the worship of idols and other gods as illiterate, and they instill the locals with modern Christianity. In diverse cultures collided over issues relating to religion. For instance, European culture gave it a right for men to fight against each other in protecting the interest of the religion while in Igbo’s culture; it was an abomination for men to fight on religious matters as they were punished. In Mbanta, the locals opposed the European way of worship as they regarded killing because of religion as a tool to disrupt peace.

In conclusion, the central concerns in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” were religious and political violence. Characters in the fiction are enthusiastic about their religion. The Igbo traditional norms were disrupted by the British and multiculturalism weakened the system. The kinship bonds of the Igbo people were destroyed due to the introduction of the central government led by the British. The new generation among the Igbo people began to take the new civilization as the way of life, therefore, killing their background emphasis on religion matters.

Works Cited

  1. Achebe, Chinua. ‘Things fall apart.’ Ch. Achebe (1958): 1-117.
  2. May, Stephen, ed. Critical multiculturalism: Rethinking multicultural and antiracist education. Psychology Press, 1999.
  3. Isichei, Elizabeth. A history of the Igbo people. Palgrave Macmillan, 1976.


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