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Malcolm Smith

English 10B
Things Fall Apart Essay Final Draft
Impossible to Coexist
Cultural collision is something that society has seen repeated throughout history, to this very
day. Although the cultures and settings change, the basic foundations beneath these moments are
always the same. They are propelled by fear of the unknown, and an ignorance that comes from
believing that one group is more superior than the other. The novel, Things
Fall Apart, by
Chinua Achebe is a literary epic that gives us as the reader, a very close up look at two very
distinct cultures and what happens when they try to impose their beliefs on the other. The host
through which this collision is told is the tragic hero of the story, Okonkwo. Achebe displays this
epic cultural clash, and the ignorant wickedness of the Europeans by opening the novel with the
beautiful display of this society in perfect harmony with each other and all of their cultural
beliefs, allowing us to really relate with them on a human level, the attempted assimilation of the
clan into christianity, and by Okonkwos moral descent.
In order to show just how much these two cultures can not coexist, Achebe must first
show us a society that lives in harmony, to completely juxtapose the hell and chaos that arrives
later in the novel with the arrival of all the confusion that the missionaries bring.Then the
missionaries burst into song. It was one of those gay and rollicking tunes of evangelism which
had the power of plucking at silent and dusty chords in the heart of an Ibo man (146).
Throughout the opening of the story, Achebe goes into great detail to show us this civilized
society in its best light. There seems to always be the misconception that early African clans

were not sophisticated beings, and Achebe knows that this stigma must be broken in order for the
reader to follow on this journey. The story that Achebe is trying to tell must show that
underneath all of the facades, both cultures bring out the worst in each other and force the other
to do things they never would in their right mind have done otherwise; seen especially with
Okonkwo's killing the white official at the end of the story.
After building up the illusion of peace and harmony between all, Achebe must of course tear
it down and allow these people from two different parts of the world to annihilate the other. This
is done mainly through the missionaries work to convert the clan to christianity. When the
missionaries first came to Umuofia, christianity was optional, they did not force anyone to
convert their beliefs. But as the novel progressed, the missionaries became ever more hostile in
their ways. Achebe expresses the drastic change of life in Umuofia before and after the
missionary arrival through the use of tribal drums. The drums are heard a lot throughout the story
until the missionaries arrive and the drums are heard no more.The drums were still beating,
persistent and unchanging. Their sound was no longer a separate thing from the living village. It
was like the pulsation of its heart. It throbbed in the air, in the sunshine, and even in the trees,
and filled the village with excitement (44). In many ways, the European intrusion into Umuofia
literally killed the heart and soul of Africa, an act that should make the reader rage and cry for
the injustice of it.
Throughout the novel, even before the introduction of the Europeans, Okonkwo seemed to
struggle with his place in society and how he and others around him should live. This of course
was not helped by the confusion that missionaries brought to his life. In Umuofia, Okonkwo was
referred to as the Roaring Flame, which foreshadows the person that the europeans bring out in

him. Okonkwo was popularly called the Roaring Flame. As he looked into the log fire he
recalled the name. He was a flaming fire (153). In many ways, it could be inferred that Achebe
uses Okonkwo to symbolize the very extremes that cultural collision can create between two
societies, climaxing in the killing of the white general and his own suicide at the end of the
novel. As the Europeans gained more and more influence over the Umuofians, this posed a
serious risk to Okonkwo and the power and popularity that he had acquired from himself. His
erratic behavior seems to be Achebe quietly telling the audience that power brings out the worst
in a person. And really sets up Things Fall Apart as a cautionary tale.
In conclusion, when the Europeans brought their religion and ways of life to Africa, they
truly did believe that they were doing the right thing. But sadly all it did was create a worse
atmosphere for the natives. Missionaries are supposed to enlighten and better all the places they
pass through, but in this situation, they simply left behind a trail of darkness. The biggest fault of
all involved in this novel was ignorance. Because of this ignorance, the world that these africans
new literally fell apart at the seams.