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Things Fall Apart

In his famous novel “Things Fall Apart,” renowned author Chinua Achebe paints a

unique portrait of Africa that is completely separate from the colonial representations of the

continent. In the first sixteen chapters, Achebe represents village life in the varying shades of

light and darkness, which offers a balanced perspective, which does not simply romanticize the

continent, but explores it from every side and angle. In a profound sense, Achebe’s descriptive

terms in the first chapter aligns almost perfectly with Toni Morrison’s perspective of the white

gave. He describes Umuofia village and the village life in purely African terms, which enhance

the authenticity of the text. Morrison’s concept of white gave implies the act of looking at the

world from a unique perspective, which is not affected by the worldviews of the white man

(Lister 124). Remarkably, Achebe fulfills the white gave by looking at life from the point of view

of an African village.

One telling aspect of locating meaning outside the confines of the white gave comes to

the surface during the description of the fight between Okonkwo and Amalinze. The narrator

reveals that the village had never witnessed a duel of that scale since “the founder of their land

engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights,” (Achebe 1). Counting days

separately from nights is a concept of time that aligns with an African worldview. Therefore,

Achebe reaffirms an African perspective of time by separating the days and the nights. He also

reclaims many other aspects of reality that determined the patterns of life in the traditional
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African society. Reading through the subsequent chapters reveals an unremitting effort by the

author to redraw the mental image of Africa in a humane, realistic, and authentic perspective.

Notably, Achebe laces his story with a variety of cultural tropes that raise the authenticity

of the story within an African realm. In the third chapter, the author mentions a conversation

between Okonkwo’s father and an oracle regarding the misfortune and poverty that had afflicted

the family for a long time. Instead, the oracle reminds his father about his laziness, which had

denied his family the delights of affluence. This part of the book highlights the traditional

African values of hard work, honesty, and dedication. Such representation of Africa and Africans

is conspicuously missing in the literature of renowned authors such as Joseph Conrad and

Rudyard Kipling, who portrayed Africa as a continent that was distinctively backward and

uncivilized (Moore 41). The net difference between the foreign writers and Achebe captures

Morrison’s concept of the white gaze.

The introductory part of chapter sixteen signals the tension that was growing between the

villagers and the missionaries together with their followers. The priestess of Agbala, Chielo

seemed to speak for the majority in his expression of disgust against the Christian converts that

were transgressing against their cultural gods. The priestess describes the converts as “the

excrement of the clan, and the new faith was the mad dog that had come to eat it up,” (Achebe

201). The description goes against the grain of mainstream European portrayal of the role of

Christianity in Africa. The European writers suggested that the new faith aimed at civilizing the

savages, whereas Achebe portrays the same as largely disruptive. Once more, this class of

perception confirms Achebe’s resolve to stay away from the white gaze as understood in

Morrison’s terms.
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Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Oxford: Heinemann Educational, 2000. Print.

Lister, Rachel. Reading Toni Morrison. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.

Moore, Gene M. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. Oxford: Oxford University

Press, 2004. Print.