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EeroGallano
Mrs.Lawrence
APLiterature
P.1
10/19/15
TheDisunionofUnprescriptedandExpeditiousChange
Postcolonialliteratureworksarguablygiveperspectivetothesubaltern.ChinuaAchebes
ThingsFallApart
attemptstogivesuchperspective,andhisnovelwasacriticalexampleofthe
modernAfricannovel.Focusingonamemberofthehistoricallymisrepresentedandunfairly
generalizedIgbopeople,thenovelrevealsthatsuddenanddrasticchangeintroducescultural,
familial,andinternaldisorder.ThisideaisassertedthroughAchebesuseofsymbolism,motifs,
andcharacterization.
Unforeseenandradicalchangecanbringaboutinternalandfamilialdisequilibrium.This
isrevealedthroughOkonkwoscharacterization.Inthebeginning,Achebeestablishesthat
[Okonkwo]wasalreadyoneofthegreatestmenofhistime(8).However,thoughhecontinues
topracticeanddisplayhismasculinetraitstoafault,heconfrontsmomentsofinternal
instability,notifiedbymomentswhenOkonkwodidnottasteanyfoodfordaysorwhenhe
onlyatetoplease[Ezinma](63,199).ThefirstinstanceoccursafterhehaskilledIkemefuna,
whomhetreatsasason.HissuddeninvolvementinIkemefunasdeathquicklychangedthis
fathersonrelationship,resultinginaforementionedinternalinstability.Anotherinstanceis
Okonkwosrealizationthatheisdeprivedofhisformerinfluenceovertheclanandthatallthe


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powernowbelongstothewhitemen.However,despitebeingthemainfocusofthestory,
Okonkwoisnttheonlycharactertohaveexperiencedinternalinstability.
Okonkwosson,Nwoye,alsoundergoesmomentsofinternalinstabilitythroughoutthe
partsofthenovel.Constantly,OkonkwoconstantlyberatesNwoyeforhisinterestinmore
feminineaspectsoftheirculture,evengoingasfaras[rebuking]himor[beating]him(54).
OkonkwosaggressiveattemptsatshapingNwoyescharacter,anextremechange,endupbeing
detrimentaltotheirrelationship.However,anothersuddeneventinflictedevenmoredamageto
NwoyesrelationshipwithOkonkwo.Thearrivalofthemissionariespresentstalesthatgreatly
[puzzle]...Nwoyescallowmind,givingreasontoNwoyetoresorttothisforeignreligion(147).
NwoyepondersuponthepossibilityofconvertingthemajorityofhisfamilytoChristianityas
well,ashefeelsuneasyofabandoninghisentirefamily.Itmustbenotedthattherelatabilityof
thesetaleswerecausedbyOkonkwoscontinualabuseofNwoyeandthedeathofIkemefuna,
furtherreasonthatunforeseenanddrasticchangesassisttheensuingofdisarraywithin
individuals.Thisexampleisnotonlyapplicabletoindividualintegrity,butalsointegrityofthe
family.BydevotinghimselftoChristianity,Nwoyeeffectivelydestroystheremnantsofhis
relationshipwithOkonkwo.Thoughtheexamplesgivensofaronlypertaintofamiliesandthe
individual,radicalandsuddenchangecanalsoinflictdamagetoahighernumberofpeople
Severeandabruptchangescanalsobringaboutculturalinstability.Asymbolthatisused
toportraythisideaisthelocust.Accordingtothenovel,thelocustsquitesuddenly...fellonthe
world,andmightytreebranchesbrokeunderthem(55,56).Thisspecificmomentinwhich
thelocustsweredescribedalsostatesthelocustsastheharbingerssenttosurveytheland,
practicallyrelatingthemtothemissionariesthatappearlaterinthestoryevenOkonkwoand


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Obierikaexchangedthoughtsonthiscorrelationfollowingthemissionariesappearance(56).
ThemightybranchcanalsobecorrelatedtothecultureoftheIgbopeoplebrancheshave
been,throughouthistory,usedtosymbolizepeaceandintegrity,examplesbeingtheolivebranch
orthepalmbranch.Byestablishingthesymbolicmeaningofthelocustsasmissionariesand
portrayingthedestructionofthebranch,whichsymbolizespeaceandintegrity,Achebeasserts
thatthemannerinwhichthemissionariesandthewhitemenhaveimposedtheirideasontothe
Igbopeoplebrokethemightybranchandbroughtuponthemdisorderandchaos.
ThesamescopeofdiscordwithinthetribesisalsoestablishedthroughAchebesuseof
thedrumswithintheIgboculture.Throughoutthebeginningofthestory,beforethemissionaries
wereintroduced,thedrumsweretheveryheartbeatofthepeople(50).Theutilizationof
drumsinthestoryallowsAchebetoestablishasenseofculturalunitywithinthetribe.However,
howthedrumsrepresenttheculturaldisunityoftheIgbopeopleisnotfoundwithinits
appearanceintheearlierpartsofthenovelbutratherthelackthereofinthelaterpartofthe
novel.Thearrivalofthemissionariesandlaterthewhitemencausedextremedivisionwithinthe
clanofUmuofia,andthisisappropriatelyreflectedthroughtheabsenceofthedrums,thoughit
mustbenotedthatthedrumsarementionedoncelaterinthenovel.Thissingularmentionofthe
drums,however,doesnotconflictwiththeclaimbutalsosupportsit.Oneofthemissionaries,
laterexplored,satiatestheconvertswithconvictiontoentirelycommutetheremnantsofthe
formerIgboculturetoChristianity,anexamplebeingEnochthedescriptionofthemissionarys
assertivetonguebroughtcomparisonsofittothepersuasivebeatsofthe
ogene
drum,an
influentialinstrumentwithinIgbosociety.


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Evenforeigncharacterswereutilizedtopresenttheideathatunsolicitedandradical
changeengendereddiscourse.Mr.BrownandMr.Smith,themissionarieswhostayedat
UmuofiahavedifferentmethodsofapproachwhenitcametoconvertingtheIgbopeople.Mr.
Brownwassubtlewhengoingaboutpreachinghisreligionandtookthetimetolearnagood
dealaboutthereligionoftheclan,evenconcludingthatafrontalattackonitwouldnot
succeed(181).Hissuccessor,however,tookanentirelydifferentconceptofconversionMr.
SmithcondemnedopenlyMr.Brownspolicyofcompromiseandaccommodationandsaw
thingsasblackandwhite(184).Hisstringentdispositioninfluencedconverts,formermembers
oftheUmuofiaclan,todepredatetherestofIgboculture,whichstrivedtoabolishthesettlement
ofthesemissionarieswithoutunnecessaryviolence.HisbehaviorgoesontoenactEnochs
unmaskingofoneoftheegwugwu,whichinturnledtotheburningoftheChristianchurch.This
scenarionotonlyrevealsthedetrimentaleffectsofchangetotheIgboculture,butalsotothe
attemptsofconvertingtheUmuofiaclantoChristianity.Thisexamplerevealsthatchangenot
onlyinflictsdamagetothesubjecttowhichthischangeisbeingintroducedtobutalsotothe
subjectthatisintroducingthischangethisassertsthatpresumptuouschangeprovokesuniversal
damage,thusexpandingthescopeinwhichthischangeinflictsdissension.
Achebesuseofcharacterization,symbols,andmotifsallowshimtoconveytheideathat
organizationalintegrityisfragileandcaneasilybedisruptedbythesuddenintroductionof
foreignsubjects.Itisevidentthatthisnovelservesascommentaryonthedetrimentaleffectsof
colonialism,especiallythatofAfricancivilizationbyEurocentricempires.However,the
fictitiousaccountsofcolonialismarenotrequiredforAchebespointstoremaintrue,as
evidenceforsuchclaimalreadyexiststhroughouthistory.Instead,thenovelexiststodiminish


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thepreexistingbeliefofaninferiorAfricancultureandtorevealthatAfricascurrentstateof
seeminglyunendingconflictdoesnotexistbecauseofaforementionedculture,forindividuals,
families,andevenentireculturesfallapartwhenchangeissudden,drastic,andtherefore
destructive.