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Q.

To what extent does postcolonial literature foreground the failure of the individual and the
survival of the community? Answer with reference to ONE postcolonial author of your
choice

A. Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God are two novels that written by Chinua Achebe from Igbo
traditional background. Things Fall Apart was published in 1958 just before Nigerian
Independence which is significant to mention because the contemporary issues concerned
Nigeria at the end of British rule drive the readers back to the previous century when the
colonial powers were about to dominate. Achebe discusses the marginalization in of the African
voice in both of his novels. His Later novel Arrow of God, explores the beginning of colonization
in the Igbo society. Moreover, Achebe explores the treatment of heroic failure of Okonkwo
and Ezeulu ; the two main characters from his novels. The two heroes perform a role of a
scapegoat or we can say a martyr. Furthermore, we can also say that Achebe presents a
clash of generations through the relationship of Okonkwo and his son and same is the case
with Ezeulu and his son. This answer will focus on how Okonkwo from Thing Fall Apart and
Ezeulu from Arrow of God are failures as an individual and the society and the community
they are living in how it survives in the period of emerging colonization.

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s fear of appearing weak consistently pushes him to act in ways
that break the clan’s laws and customs. When he beats his wife during the sacred week of peace
the priest tells him that: ‘the evil you have done can ruin the whole clan.’ The counterbalance
proverb to the earlier one we have mentioned which his neighbors use of him. Okonkwo is an
example of an individual going further than his society demands of him. Thus despite his being
told not to take part in the death of his adopted son Ikemefuna, when the tribe decides when he
must be sacrificed. Nevertheless, Okonkwo cuts him down with a machete because “he was
afraid of being thought weak”.

Moreover, Achebe seems to be identifying a sterility which is presenting in the Igbo society. The
society that dictates that must be killed and mutilated and that Ikemefuna be sacrificed. This
shows that the society is not balanced sufficiently by the necessary values of the feminine.
Achebe identifies these as the fundamental problems within the Igbo society and these are
dramatized within Okonkwo’s character. Okonkwo’s acts beyond the demands the community
through an extreme identification with the tribe’s destiny. Achebe’s narrative voice is
deceptively simple. The narrative perspective is that one of the tribe and the world of the novel
is contained within the perceptual borders of Umoufia. Okonkwo’s status in the novel is
complex he may symbolize tragic destruction of the old order but he also symbolizes what was
wrong with that old order.

Furthermore, it is obvious from the text of Arrow of God that although Ezeulu has threatened on
Umuaro by refusing to eat the sacred yams, the scope of the revenge is tied to his unwillingness to risk
his own life by eating more than one yam in a month, which amounts to eating his own 'death.' Ezeulu is
caged from the wake of time and there is hardly he can do anything about it. The gods may take unfair
decisions and may take to execute the human beings. This why Ezeulu tells the council of chiefs that “I
Ezeulu am the chief priest of Ulu and I have told you that his will is not mine. Do not forget that I too
have yam fields and that my children, my kinsmen and my friends yourselves among them - have also
planted yams. It could not be my wish to ruin all these people. It could not be my wish to make the
smallest man in Umuaro suffer. But this is not my doing. The gods sometimes use us as a whip”. Ezeulu
and his family are worst hit by the famine. Other families help themselves with the yams they have
grown themselves in the homesteads and gradually between the boundaries between the main fields.
But this wasn’t the case in Ezeule’s household as it does not have a leeway. Thus Virginia Ola argues that
“ The tradegy of Ezeulu is far from being about the punishment of an arrogant and imperrive looking
priest…crushed by a stronger, communal supernatural force…”.

Moreover it is evident in the novel as Ezeulu points out to the court messenger that ‘no matter
how many spirits plotted a man’s death it would come to nothing unless his personal god took hand in
the deliberation’. Ezeulu’s personal god had participated in devising for him an intractable destiny which
sets up a chain of catastrophes in the text. He tells his friend Akuebue that ‘I have my own way and I
shall follow it’. However Ezeulu is a brave man who is steadfast in his thoughts. He rules his polygamous
family with firmness. He never swayed with other people’s judgments but maintains his own sense of
judgment. He maintains his position as the chief priest of Ulu, a god created by the people almost six
centuries ago when the six villages of Umuaro united to stand against the slave traders. As the chief
priest, Ezeulu is responsible for safeguarding the rituals and traditions of the people. Moreover, In the
flashback that explains the cause of the conflict between Ezeulu and Nwaka, two very strong figures in
Umuaro five years before, Nwaka is shown to be a prosperous man and a supporter of Ezidemili, the
chief priest of the god, Idemili. The initial clash between the two men is over a land dispute between
Umuaro and the nearby village of Okperi. Ezeulu, as a man of justice, tries without success to persuade
his Umuaro kins men not to take war to Okperi over a portion of land that belongs to Okperi. He gives
them the information the way he has learnt it from his father: “I know, my father said this to me that
when our village first came here to live the land belonged to Okperi. It was Okperi who gave us a piece
of their land to live in. They also gave us their deities - their Udo and Ogwugwu...”Against the oratorical
prowess of Chief Nwaka, Ezeulu struggles in vain to prevail on his people not to engage in an unjust war.

Ezeulu proves to be a brave man to the people of his village. When is he is called to the Okperi
to government hill for a meeting with winterbottom who wants to make him a puppet chief, he turns
down the offer. Ezeulu’s invitation by the white man is exploited by his enemy Nwaka. But Ezeulu shows
that he can handle the situation by insisting on going to confront to Winterbottom alone. Winterbottom
has agood intention for him, which is compared to "a morsel which fortune had placed in his

mouth” (175) but he spits it out. In their arrogance and confusion, the Umuaro people become divided
in their loyalty between Ulu and the survival of the community. While this dilemma rages on among a
starving people, Ezeulu's son Obika dies suddenly after performing as Ogbazulobodo, the night spirit, in
a ritual for Amalu's funeral. The people take Obika's demise as an indication that Ulu had either
reprimanded or dumped his priest and "that no man however great was greater than his people; that no
one ever won judgment against his clan" (230).

Achebe in both in novels, Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God has produced characters such as Okwonko
and Ezeulu who are brave and steadfast but yet they have failed as a hero. There decline as an individual
has affected the people around them and also on the society and the community.