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AFRO-ASIAN LITERATURE The sweat of your work

The work of your slavery


Literature – form of art through literary pieces Africa, tell me Africa
Afro-asian literature – a term for writing written by African- Is this your back that is unbent
arab ethnicity and African-Asian ethnicity This back that never breaks under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
NORMS AND CULTURE OF AFRICA And saying no to the whip under the midday sun
1. Sense of Good Human relations – art of dialogue and But a grave voice answers me
conversation Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
2. Sense of Hospitality – easily incorporate strangers That tree over there
and give lands to settle Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
3. Sense of Community – Idea of security and its value That is your Africa springing up anew
depends on personal identification springing up patiently, obstinately
NORMS AND CULTURE OF ASIA Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
1. Family and Education – Child rearing and education The bitter taste of liberty.
is fundamental
2. Reserve Conformity and Harmony – greatest virtue Original language version:
that can achieve is not greatness of one’s self, but
fulfilling as a whole Afrique mon Afrique
3. Benevolence and Obligations – dependence or Afrique des fiers guerriers dans les savanes ancestrales
domination Afrique que me chantait ma grand-mère
4. Loss of face , shame and honor – maintaining good Au bord de son fleuve lointain
face is a kind of measurement Je ne t’ai jamais connue
COUNTRIES COMPRISING AFRO AND ASIAN LIT Mais mon regard est plein de ton sang
 South Korea Ton beau sang noir à travers les champs répandu
 North Korea Le sang de ta sueur
 Japan La sueur de ton travail
 Saudi Arabia Le travail de l’esclavage
 China L’esclavage de tes enfants
 India Afrique dis-moi Afrique
 Egypt Est-ce donc toi ce dos qui se courbe
 Israel Et se couche sous le poids de l’humilité
 Philippines Ce dos tremblant à zébrures rouges
 Thailand Qui dit oui au fouet sur les routes de midi
 Africa Alors gravement une voix me répondit
 Malaysia Fils impétueux cet arbre robuste et jeune
 Indonesia Cet arbre là -bas
 Vietnam Splendidement seul au milieu de fleurs blanches et fanées
C’est l’Afrique ton Afrique qui repousse
Qui repousse patiemment obstinément
David Diop Et dont les fruits ont peu à peu
[1927-1960] was born in Bordeaux, France, Diop is often L’amère saveur de la liberté.
considered one of the most promising French West African
poets. His short life's work often involved his longing for Poetic Devices Used:
Africa and his empathy for those fighting against the French *Apostrophe
colonization of the mainland. His work shows a hatred for the *Personification
oppressors and the aforementioned empathy for the *Repetition
oppressed. *Alliteration
He was a revolutionary African poet born in France but with *Anaphora
parents of West African descent. His poems highlighted
problems of African brought about by colonialism and gave a Theme:
message to Africans to bring about change and freedom. He  Bitterness
was known for his involvement in the negritude movement in Tone:
France, a movement started by Black writers and artists  A triumphal feeling is a celebratory feeling. Speaker
protesting against French colonialism and its effects of African feels triumphal when he reflects on Africa because it
culture and values. His views and feelings were published in is a proud homeland lineage full of images of might
“Presence Africaine” and in his book of poems “Coups de and greatness, as his grandmother sings of it.
pillion” which was published in 1956. Diop died at the age of  “Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields,”
33 in a plane crash. is a tone sadly desperate.
Gabriel Okara
Gabriel Okara is a Nigerian poet and novelist whose work has
Africa
been translated into several languages. After his first poem,
“The Call of the River Nun,” won an award at the Nigerian
Africa my Africa
Festival of Arts in 1953, several of his poems were featured in
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
the Nigerian literary journal Black Orpheus. In his poetry,
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
Okara draws from Nigerian folklore and religion while
On the banks of the distant river
exploring extremes within daily life through circular patterns.
I have never known you
In addition to a novel, and several books of adult poetry,
But your blood flows in my veins
including The Fisherman’s Invocation (1978), Okara has
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
published two collections of children’s poetry, Little Snake In the poem, the father is telling his son how things used to
and Little Frog (1992) and An Adventure to Juju Island  (1992). be. The father says that people used to be sincere, but is now
superficial and seeks only to take from others. He also tells
Once Upon a Time the child that he has learned to be just like these people, but
at the same time does not want to act that way. The parent
Once upon a time, son, wants to be as sincere as the son. He also realize that he’s
they used to laugh with their hearts accepting the culture of westerners and is gradually affected
and laugh with their eyes: by the culture.
but now they only laugh with their teeth, Themes:
while their ice-block-cold eyes  Explored throughout the poem are childhood
search behind my shadow. experiences, hypocrisy, and loss of innocence, desire
and dreams. All of this because the nostalgia of the
There was a time indeed persona.
they used to shake hands with their hearts: Aim:
but that’s gone, son. To express Okara’s concern for the influence of the Westren
Now they shake hands without hearts world on age-old African custom. The poem is also meant to
while their left hands search outline the fake personalities of numerous people, and
my empty pockets. encourage them to return to a natural and innocent state,
after reading the poem.
‘Feel at home!’ ‘Come again’: Mood and Tone:
they say, and when I come The mood of the poem is nostalgic. The persona is
again and feel remembering how things are different when he was younger,
at home, once, twice, like his son. The tone is connected to the mood, and the
there will be no thrice- response the poet gives to the nostalgia, is disconsolate. But
for then I find doors shut on me. throughout the poem, the tone also changes when there’s a
use of metaphors, similes and repetition.
So I have learned many things, son.
I have learned to wear many faces Mabel Dove Danquah
like dresses – homeface, (1905–1984) was a Gold Coast-born journalist, political
officeface, streetface, hostface, activist and creative writer, one of the earliest women in
cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles West Africa to work in these fields. As Francis Elsbend Kofigah
like a fixed portrait smile. notes in relation to Ghana's literary pioneers, "before the
emergence of such strong exponents of literary feminism as
And I have learned too Efua Sutherland and Ama Ata Aidoo, there was Mabel Dove
to laugh with only my teeth Danquah, the trail-blazing feminist." She used various
and shake hands without my heart. pseudonyms in her writing for newspapers from the 1930s:
I have also learned to say,’Goodbye’, "Marjorie Mensah" in The Times of West Africa; "Dama
when I mean ‘Good-riddance’: Dumas" in the African Morning Post; "Ebun Alakija" in
to say ‘Glad to meet you’, the Nigerian Daily Times; and "Akosua Dzatsui" in the Accra
without being glad; and to say ‘It’s been Evening News. Entering politics in the 1950s before Ghana's
nice talking to you’, after being bored. independence, she became the first woman to be elected a
member of any African legislative assembly.
But believe me, son.
I want to be what I used to be ANTICIPATION BY Mabel Dove Danquah
when I was like you. I want (A Literary Criticism)
to unlearn all these muting things.
Most of all, I want to relearn THE ELEMENTS
how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror            
shows only my teeth like a snake’s bare fangs! Ø  CHARACTERS       
·         Nana Adaku II- the Omanhene of Akwasin, and was
So show me, son, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his accession to the
how to laugh; show me how stool of Akwasin, the man who has 40 wives.
I used to laugh and smile ·         Effua- One of the 40 wives of Omanhene
once upon a time when I was like you. ·         Linguist- the trusted person of the Omanhene
·         Men of Akwasin- are wearing tokota sandals on their feet
Gabriel Okara and rich multi-colored velvet and gorgeous, hand-woden .
·         Women of Akwasin with golden ear-rings dangling, with
Who is talking in the poem? golden chains and bracelets. Looking dignified in their colorful
What assumptions can you make about the kind of life he has native Attire.
lived and his present circumstances?            
What kind of person do you imagine him to be? Ø  SETTING(S)
What has he learnt to do with his own feelings? ·         Nkwabi, the capital of Akwasin.
Who is the person addressing? Ø  Conflict
What does he hope to learn from him? Man vs. Society- the character in this story became the victim
What does he mean by wanting ‘to unlearn all these muting of its own society, of its own tradition.
things’? Ø  POINT OF VIEW
Why do you think the poet has given it the title, ‘Once Upon a Third Person Point of View- it is being told or narrated by a
Time’? person who doesn’t have an actual participation in the story.
THE THEME
Content of the Poem
Sometimes the things that we anticipate are already
there. It’s just that we fail to appreciate them and only see The ending of the story is unpredictable, it is not what I
them when we don't have any options or when we simply got expected it to be. I can tell that the author did not fail to
bored. amuse her readers. The story is quite good, unpredictable,
unusual, humorous, and most importantly not boring. The
THE PLOT DEVELOPMENT only thing that left me hanging is the ending of the story. I
Ø  Exposition was left wondering what will happen next after that
The Omanhene was celebrating the 20 th anniversary revelation, on how Nana Adaku reacted. Did he realize his
of his accession to stool of Akwasin. He then arrived in a stupidity? Did he laugh out of it? Did he learn to love and
palanquin in the state park where the Odwina was to be valued Effua or his wives? But again, as I said the story is
staged. As the drum beats on the women performed the unusual. If this is what author’s main intention, then I can say
Adowa dance. One dancer capture his attention because of its that he indeed succeeded on her intention.
beauty, he then threw a handful of loose cash into the crowd
of dancers. The particular dancer mad no sign but instead Prepared by: Theresa Nova D. Villaester
keeps on dancing.
Ø  Rising Action What is Negritude?
Realizing that he was neglected by the dancer, he ► The term "negritude" was derived from
turned to his trusted linguist. He told him to get fifty pounds French nèger or "negro," derived from Latin niger for
from the cashier and gave it to the dancer’s relatives. The "black."
linguist then starts his investigation about the woman.
Ø  Climax ► Negritude refers to a consciousness of and pride in
Nana went back to his place. He then fell asleep after the cultural and physical aspects of the African
he had taken a bath.  When he woke up the young woman heritage or the state or condition of being black
was kneeling by his feet. There he gave the remaining 50 gold
sovereigns to Effua to complete the offer of 100. After ► It was an ideology propounded by Caribbean
receiving the amount the woman gave it to his parents and scholars, influenced by the black experience of
went back to the Omanhene. slavery, imperialism and colonialism of the slavery
era and after.
Ø  Falling action
There they talk casually inside the Omanhene’s ► It is a literary and political movement founded in
room. Omanhene appreciated the beauty and charm of Effua French Martinique and Paris in the 1930s by a group
while he was playing the ivory beads lying so snugly on her of students from the French Caribbean and Africa.
bosom.
The Founders of Negritude
Ø  Denouement
Effua stands and look in the mirror.  As she came  Negritude is a cultural movement launched in Paris
back and sit, she then revealed that they were already in the 1930s by French-speaking black graduate
married two years ago, that he also paid her 50 pounds students from France’s colonies in Africa and the
before. Caribbean territories. These black intellectuals
converged around issues of race identity and black
internationalist initiatives to combat French
imperialism. They found solidarity in their common
ideal of affirming pride in their shared black identity
and African heritage, and reclaiming African self-
determination, self-reliance, and self-respect.

 The three “fathers” of the Negritude movement


were Aime Cesaire, Leon Damas, and Leopold
THE CRITICAL INSIGHTS Senghor.

I think the best approach to this literature is Sociological  The 1931 encounter between the three marks the
Approach. This story shows concrete details on how the beginning of a collective exploration of their
culture, economic, and political context affects the flow or complex, cultural identity as black, African, Antillean,
the outcome, character’s actions, and the story as a whole. and French.
Perhaps these three aspects indeed play a vital role in the
story.  While the three leaders agreed on Negritude’s Pan-
Africanist engagement to affirm black’s “being-in-the
In the story the society views marriage as an assurance world” through literary and artistic expression, they
for a better life.  This is evident on how the women are being differed in their styles and designs.
portrayed. They are marrying a rich or noble man, to the
extent that they disregard the fact that the man is already Aime Cesaire (was the first to coin the word in his epic poem,
been married on the first place. This action that we consider Journal of the Homecoming)
deviant has been tolerated by the culture and the society in
the story. The economic status also has something to do with  For Cesaire, the original concept of Negritude is
this practice. Nana Adaku is an Omanhene in his town. Here rooted in the specificity and unity of black people as
we can deduce that he is rich and powerful, giving him the historically derived from the Transatlantic Slave
rights to practice this polygamous act, since the only ground Trade and their plight in New World plantation
for it is that the man should have the capability or as long as systems.
the man can support his wives and his families.  In his own words, Negritude is not a cephalic index,
or plasma, or soma, but measured by the compass of
REFLECTION suffering.” The movement was born of a shared
experience of discrimination, oppression, and  For Senghor, the dual black and white cultural
subordination to be suppressed through concerted background gives insights that neither can give
efforts of racial affirmation. separately, and African input can help solve some
 His response to the centuries-old alienation of blacks problems that have challenged Westerners.
is a call to reject assimilation and reclaim their own  He points to a new race consciousness that lays the
racial heritage and qualities. foundation for challenging enslavement and
 He experiences his negritude as a fact, a revolt, and colonization of blacks, as well as establishing a
the acceptance of responsibility for the destiny of his “rendez du donner et recevoir” (give-and-take).
race.  He responds to the charge that Negritude is a racist
 He advocates the emergence of “cultural workers” with his definition that says, “Negritude is neither
who will reveal black specificity to the world by racialism nor negation. Yet it is not just affirmation;
articulating their experiences, their fortunes and it is rooting oneself in oneself, and self-confirmation:
misfortunes. confirmation of one’s being. It has nothing more or
 He rejects assimilation and articulates the concept in less that what some English-speaking Africans have
his book-length poem Cahier d'un retour au pays called the African personality.”
natal (1939), translated as Notebook of a Return to  Negritude must take place in contemporary
the Native Land or Journal of a Homecoming. It is humanism in order to enable black Africa to make its
considered his masterwork that mixes poetry and contribution to the “Civilization of the Universal,”
prose to express his thoughts on the cultural identity which is so necessary in our divided but
of black Africans in a colonial setting. interdependent world.
My Négritude is not a stone, its deafness hurled  His poems such as “Joal,” which captures cultural
againstthe clamor of the day memories of his childhood and ancestral lands, are
my Négritude is not a leukoma of dead liquid over interspersed with anti-colonialist rage. Others make
the earth'sdead eye an appeal for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness
my Négritude is neither tower nor cathedral for France’s dehumanization of blacks through
it takes root in the red flesh of the soil enslavement and colonization.
it takes root in the ardent flesh of the sky  His influence and example were very important in
it breaks through opaque prostration with its upright encouraging African intellectuals to devote
patience. themselves to literature, poetry, and the arts.
► In other words, black personality is not the lifeless
object the society has reduced it to; instead, it is a Objectives of Negritude
vibrant creative force that confronts racism,
 To eliminate the barriers between black students
colonialism, and other forms of domination.
from the various French colonies and all people of
Leon Damas black decent.
 To reject the political, social and moral domination
 He was the first of the three fathers to publish his of the West and enlighten the black race such that
own book of poems, Pigment (1937), which there is as acceptance of the black self.
underscores the need to cure the ills of Western  To rehabilitate Africans and all blacks from European
society and is sometimes referred to as the ideology that holds the black inherently inferior to
“manifesto of the movement.” the white
 Its style and overtones passionately condemn racial  To counteract the idea of black inferiority with black
division, slavery, and colonialist assimilation. pride.
 For him, Negritude is a categorical rejection of an  To promote the concept of blackness through the
assimilation that negated black spontaneity as well arts and literature
as a defense for his condition as black and Guyanese.  To draw on the continent of Africa as a course of
 According to him, becoming French requires loss, ethnic identity and cultural depth.
repression, and rejection of self as well as adoption
of a civilization that robs indigenous cultures, values, Its Impact
and beliefs, as articulated in his poem “Limbe” in
which he laments his losses:  From a political standpoint, Negritude was an
important aspect to the rejection of colonialism.
Give me back my black dolls  Emerging at the cusp of African independence
so that I may play with them movements, Negritude made an impact on how the
the naïve games of my instinct colonized viewed themselves.
in the darkness of its laws  It also sparked and fed off of subsequent literary
once I have recovered movements that were responding to global politics.
my courage
and my audacity The Wrestling Contest Between The Cat and The Tortoise
and become myself once more Written by: Abayomi Fuja

Leopold Senghor Abayomi Fuja

 Like Cesaire and Damas, Senghor promotes a quest  A Yoruba from Nigeria
for the authentic self, knowledge of self, and a
rediscovery of African beliefs, values, institutions,  Born at Siluko, Nigeria in 1900
and civilizations.
 But, unlike his two peers who strongly oppose  His early education was at a Methodist primary
assimilation, Senghor advocates assimilation that school
allows association, “a cultural metissage” (mixing) of
 The Author of the “Fourteen Hundred Cowries and
blackness and whiteness.
Other African Tales”
 Abayomi Fuja began collecting Yoruban folktales in  Betrayal
Nigeria in 1938, and continued until 1944. They  Fame over friendship
include stories about people and animals, nature and
the gods. MORAL of the Story

Setting  There are certain things in life that are not meant to
be shared with and better to keep it to ourselves
 The story took place in the country of the  Being too proud of our achievements is not good it
animals. can lead us to become boastful and conceited
 We must learn how to value friendship and value the
Characters trust of other people
 The Cat – the protagonist Things Fall Apart (1958)
-written by the late Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) who was
 The Tortoise – the antagonist
a Nigerian author
 The tortoise’s supporters
SETTING
PLOT - Outskirts of Nigerian in a small fictional village
- Umuofia (before the arrival of white missionaries
EXPOSITION into their land)
In the country of the animals, the cat was regarded as the Umuofia – powerful clan, skilled in war and a great
champion wrestler of all the animals for her was able to population with proud traditions and advanced social
overpower anyone who challenged him. And because of this, institutions.
all of the animals wanted to befriend him and admired his
strength and supremacy. One of the animals who wanted to AIM OF THE NOVEL:
be his friend is the tortoise. So, the tortoise invited him over Aims at analyzing the effects of European colonization of
to his place. The tortoise’s first invitations were rejected by Igbo culture.
the cat, but still the tortoise did not give up. Until one day, he
has convinced the cat. 19th Century
 European migrated to Africa to established
RISING ACTION colonies.
 Nigeria was amongst other African nations that
The cat and the tortoise became good friends; they became
received visitors who were on a colonizing
so close to each other that one day the tortoise asked the cat
mission.
about his secret of attaining effortless victories against
numerous opponents he fought with. The cat told him about  introduced by their religion and culture and later
the secret of having some “juju” or amulet, but the cat only imposed on Igbo
told the tortoise of having 2 jujus instead when in fact the cat  Umuofia (Igbo culture) immensely threatened by
has 3 of them. this change

CLIMAX Things Fall Apart – provides readers with an insight of


Igbo society right before the white missionaries’ invasion
After knowing the secret of the cat, the tortoise was on their land
determined to become a wrestler and get the title of the cat o The insights of this that the world became more
as the champion wrestler of the animal kingdom. Indeed, he
appreciative of Africa and its people and at the
has won all wrestling competitions that he entered and
same time the truth surrounding the
gained great admiration from his fellow animals. Until one
stereotypical ideas that once existed about
day, his supporters wanted to test his strength by asking him
Africa began to appear in a much clearer light.
to fight against his friend, the cat. And so, a date for the
special event had been appointed.
Achebe – has been critical of the role of Christianity in
FALLING ACTION Africa
- He was one of the writers of his time with
The first two rounds of the wrestling contest between the cat fluency in the English language
and the tortoise resulted in ties. Yet, the audience still Blames the white missionaries colonial rule for
insisted on having a third round to break the tie. The cat used the post-colonial oppressed Igbo culture
his third juju for the final round, while the tortoise who had  Can be seen in terms of the oppressed
no more juju to use decided to combine the two jujus instead social coherence between individual and
for the third round hoping that it would be enough to equal their society
the intense amount of energy that the cat released. Educates readers extensively about Igbo
society’s myths and proverbs
DENOUEMENT
Want to encourage his fellow countrymen to
Despite the efforts of the tortoise, the cat still won the take advantage of the educational system that
competition. The tortoise was soundly beaten while the cat missionaries introduced to them as to better
emerged victorious and was able to defend his title as the their lives.
champion wrestler of the animal kingdom.
Before Things Fall Apart
CONFLICT The European writings described Africans as
uncivilized and uneducated persons.
External Conflict: Man vs Man (Cat vs Tortoise)
European sees themselves as more advanced
than Africans,

THEME
They were determined to help Africans shift from people are Igbo followers and the second group of
old era into a modern era of civilization and people are followers of the white missionaries.
education Converts to Christianity choose to abandon their
CONTENT OF THE NOVEL own religion, traditional ways of life and fellow
History of Igbo people to follow the white man and his ways.
Perfections and imperfections of their culture Things Fall Apart is all about the “collapse,
and traditions that made them different from breaking into pieces, chaos, and confusion”
Western cultures. (Alimi 121) of traditional Igbo culture that suffers
Beliefs in the power of ancestral gods, sacrifice at the hand of the white man’s arrival in Umuofia
of young boys, killing of twins and the along with his religion. The views about life that
oppression of women to name a few. the white men have are totally different from the
Reader will made to aware the arrival of white views that the Igbo have.
missionaries in Umuofia as well as the reactions What seems utterly appropriate and acceptable
of Igbo in traditional Igbo culture does not appear so to
Benefits to Igbo from the arrival of the the white missionaries. They are quick to want to
missionaries change certain elements of traditional Igbo
Effects of their arrival concerning Igbo culture culture that according to them are inappropriate
Consequently leading the clash of cultures and unacceptable. However, in so doing, the
between 2 parties white missionaries fail to see that these
“inappropriate and unacceptable” elements of
Postcolonial criticism traditional Igbo culture are what keep the Igbo
- Mainly concerned with literature critiques from together and at peace with each other.
countries that are colonies of other countries For instance, in traditional Igbo culture it is
Colonialism required for a “real” man to wed two or more
- The policy of practice of acquiring full of partial wives. The women of the clan are aware of this
political control over another country, occupying and have accepted this ritual; in some cases the
it with settlers and exploiting it economically first wife can even suggest to her husband to
Post-colonialism look for a younger wife. The younger wives are
- After colonialism of after-independence also expected to respect the first wife. These
- Wide range of social cultural and political events women along with their husbands live together
arising specifically from the decline and fall of in peace and help each other with taking care of
European colonialism that took place after WW the children and other household chores.
II. However, the white missionaries are against
- Postcolonial literature is a consequence of polygamous marriages, based on some
colonialism scriptures (for example, Malachi 2:16) found in
- Postcolonial writers usually write about how the New Testament that forbid Christians against
their rich native cultures were destroyed under such an act.
the power of imperialism Another example is that in Igbo culture the
- Put their differences aside they are surely bound killing of children or persons is a normal
to overcome the pain of losing their culture practice, as long as the reasons of the kill are in
line with the practices of their religion. For
- The literature does not show the colonized as
instance, Igbo religion says that twins must be
victims of colonialism, but rather shows that they
killed because they are a sign of the work of the
are confused about their sense of belonging
devil, small boys should be sacrificed to the gods
BACKGROUND OF THE NOVEL
as a sign of peace offerings, and so forth.
- Influential novels of its time
However, the fifth commandment teaches
- When Nigeria became a colony of Britain in
believers that only God has the power and
1906, the country became exposed to the British authority to decide when the life of man shall
political structure and its various institutions. end and nobody else.
Achebe was born in 1930 almost a quarter of a The obvious cultural clash that exists between
century after the British assumed direct control the white missionaries and Igbo in Things Fall
of Nigeria. Although Achebe’s parents at that Apart is one that also emerges in The Arrow of
time had been converted to Christianity, his God. An additional theme featured in The Arrow
grandparents were still firm believers in their of God is that of “internal division in the tribe”
traditional culture. It is under these (Alimi 121). The people of Umuaro become
circumstances that Achebe then came to know divided on their own without any external
of both the British culture as well as Nigerian influences; this creates a very strong sense of
culture. Since neither of them understood the hatred among them and the spirit of
other’s culture and neither of them was willing brotherhood and sisterhood that once existed is
to abandon their own beliefs to follow the lost.
beliefs of the other, it can be assumed that there One of the similarities between these two novels
was a lot of tension. Aware of this, Achebe said, - is that both the people of Umuofia and Umuaro
“in an interview that the conflict that existed are divided as a result of the conflict that is
between these two cultures created sparks in his caused by the arrival of white missionaries in
imagination” (Sickels 1). This resulted in the birth their villages. While the division among the
of his novel Things Fall Apart. people of Umuofia is caused by the influence of
In the novel Things Fall Apart the people of the white man the division among the people of
Umuofia are separated into two groups Umuaro is not. Here, Achebe shows the readers
immediately following the arrival of the white that although the missionaries are to be blamed
missionaries in their land. The first group of for the destructiveness of their religion to Igbo
society, readers should also consider that tribes Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
can also become divided on their own, hence The blood-dimmed the tide is loosed, and everywhere
the blame should go both ways and not just to The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
the Europeans. The best lack all conviction, while the worst
In both novels Achebe uses regionally inflected Are full of passionate intensity.
language to describe the lifestyles of his (Yeats: 1921)
characters as well as the environment where the
plots are set respectively. Things Fall Apart and Things Fall Apart is centered on the life of the
The Arrow of God are “both novels that are rich protagonist of the novel, Okonkwo. As the novel
with Igbo proverbs that Achebe translates into develops Okonkwo accidentally kills a man and he and
English for the benefit of his readers who are his family are exiled from Umuofia. During his exile white
unfamiliar with Igbo” (Alimi 121). missionaries arrive in Umuofia and change the village.
Achebe timelessly uses proverbs in these novels When Okonkwo returns to his village he sees the major
both to preserve Igbo culture and language as transformations that Umuofia has undergone during his
well as to show their value not only to him, but exile. Unhappy with the change, Okonkwo and other
the entire Igbo community. A proverb is defined villagers come together to drive the white missionaries
as a “condensed but memorable saying out of their land. Their efforts are in vain as the
embodying some important fact of experience missionaries send their messengers to abort the
that is taken as true by many people” (“Proverb,” meeting. Okonkwo kills one of the messengers and in
Advanced English Dictionary and Thesaurus). shock at his actions the villagers let the other
According to “Akporobaro a proverb is a brief messengers escape. The messengers report back to the
common statement that is usually adopted by missionaries and they take off to bring Okonkwo to
cultures to teach its people about the principles justice only to find him dead.
of right and wrong using as few words as
possible. He goes further to describe it as a DISCUSSION
means by which ideas can be vividly expressed
and illustrated” (Alimi 124). Fundamental to the Age of Imperialism was the
From the onset of the novel Achebe makes “scramble for Africa” period of the 1880s to the 1890s.
readers aware of the importance of proverbs in The Europeans became hungry for Africa's natural
conversation. When Okoye pays Unoka a visit to resources, resulting in their arrival into Africa as well as
ask him to settle his debt, and although Unoka is their hostile takeover of the land. During this period
late with the payment, Okoye does not lash out many European countries set colonies in Africa. One of
at Unoka about his overdue debt. Rather, the the reasons that the Europeans had for colonising Africa
neighbours share a kola nut, give thanks unto was their claim to civilise the primitive African minds as a
the ancestors and then go on to discuss the debt humanitarian act. Soon African states were dominated by
by speaking in proverbs (3). This maintains good European power be it economic, political or social. The
relations between the two neighbours even Europeans held a Eurocentric view of the world; firmly
though they are discussing such an issue that believing European culture to be superior. Eurocentrism
usually causes conflicts between people. therefore perceives Europe as the core of civilisation and
The difference between Achebe’s novel and of humanity. Eurocentrism had racist tendencies which
other colonial novels is that his novel thoroughly granted an inferior status to the non-whites. In order to
examines Igbo society as he portrays them in a give his people back the pride that they once had,
manner in which shows all aspects of Igbo Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart.
culture and not only the desirable aspect of their Language is also a very important element to Igbo. It
culture. He also predicts of the future of Igbo gives them a sense of belonging and they also use it as a
and where they are headed if the white means to preserve their culture and heritage. And
missionaries are to be successful in taking although language is important to Igbo, it ultimately
control of Umuofia. With the use of the English leads to the fall of their society. Igbo is a society that
language, Achebe is successful in fully detailing also appears to be sceptical about change. They refuse
the life of Okonkwo who at the beginning of the to send their children to school where they stand a
novel is a very famous young man in all the nine chance to be able to read and write in the English
villages of Umuofia. language. Despite Mr Brown’s efforts to show the
However, as the novel develops and white villagers that they need to learn English because they are
missionaries begin arriving in Umuofia along now being ruled by the District Commissioner and other
with their government and institutions, white missionaries who only communicate in English, the
Okonkwo who tries to protest the change is in villagers still remain reluctant in educating their children
the end buried without respect or dignity and (Achebe 128). The Igbo depend on their language to
his fame is soon forgotten because of the differentiate them from other cultures. They also depend
greatest sin in Igbo religion that he commits by on language to define their social rank in their society.
taking away his own life. Okonkwo, for instance, when being compared to his
father Unoka is considered as a wealthy man and not
PLOT OF THE NOVEL only because he has married a lot of women or his
The title Things Fall Apart was adopted from William household produces many yams but because of his
Butler Yeats’ poem “‘The Second Coming’” (1921). The strength that helped him defeat one of the strongest
poem foresees the end of the present age and the wrestlers in the village (Achebe 6). On the other hand,
world’s approach to another phase that is completely Unoka was a drunkard who had only one wife, not many
different: yams and had no titles to his name by the time of his
Turning and turning in the widening gyre death (Achebe 6). The village had named him agbala a
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; term Igbo use to refer to “women as well as to men who
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; have not taken a title” (Achebe iii) consequently a man
who deserves no respect from society because he is not How could a civilised and educated group of individuals
“wealthy”. who do not give themselves time to learn Igbo culture
1. Based on the definition of agbala it is evident turn around and call Igbo uncivilised and uneducated?
that a man needs to gain the respect of Igbo They certainly appear uncivilised and uneducated even
society by fulfilling either one of the three though they claim to be. This is contradictory to the
requirements that are used to define the social statements that they represent as the enlighteners of the
status of a man. That is by either having more village of Umuofia. In fact, it seems that Igbo are more
than one wife, producing many yams (which are civilised than the missionaries themselves. In their
determined by the number of wives a man has, traditional courts, for example, if two parties are at
as women are responsible for crop production) conflict with each other both parties are given the
or by defeating the strongest man in the village chance to tell their story before a ruling is taken as
in a wrestling match, which also determines the opposed to the case of the British courts. When the
number of women he marries because families villagers commit any form of crime they are imprisoned
usually marry off their daughters to strong without first being questioned whereas Igbo courts
wealthy men. However, even so readers are question those at conflict before a ruling is taken. For
immediately aware of Igbo’s ignorance towards example, Okonkwo beats up his youngest wife during
the rest of the world. They are a secluded the Week of Peace (Achebe 124) for petty reasons and
community with no knowledge whatsoever although wife beating is allowed in Igbo culture, she is
about the world outside Umuofia. At no point in given the chance to take the matter before the courts.
the novel do the characters make reference to Okonkwo is not found guilty for beating his wife but for
Nigeria or the rest of the world. It is interesting doing so during the Week of Peace where acts of
to note that the Igbo are not at all curious of violence are not allowed. Igbo is a compassionate yet
other forms of life that lie beyond Umuofia. violent society. This is seen through the character of
Because the Igbo have only known Umuofia to Okonkwo who is generally a representative of the tribe.
be the only place in the world, and they do not However, Okonkwo’s actions show that Igbo only
show any interest in learning about other places become violent when certain factors force them to be.
outside Umuofia, it can be safely concluded that For example, Okonkwo shoots one of the messengers
anything outside of their territory is disregarded, who are sent by the missionaries to break up their
hence its non-existence to them. Accordingly, it meeting (Achebe 144). He does this because he is tired
comes as no surprise that the Igbo deny their of the white missionaries and the power of authority
children the chance of mobility from Umuofia they have claimed over their village. Although it is not
into the competitive world which the white the best decision to be taken by him, it is
man’s education assures them; they even reject understandable why he does it. Instead they let the other
the white missionaries’ attempts in teaching messengers escape and sit back and watch the
them the English language all in favour of their missionaries take total control of their territory. It could
devotion to their native language. Even before be argued that this is the case because their hostility,
the white missionaries arrive in Umuofia, the whether on a smaller scale or larger scale, has always
Igbo already have their own judicial systems that been restricted within the boundaries of their land.
are based on the knowledge that their Based on this statement it justifies why Igbo do not fight
forefathers have passed onto them about their back against the white missionaries who take 15 | P a g e
culture. Their courts are spearheaded by the refuge in their land and threaten to change all aspects of
oldest men of the village, whose wisdom and their culture. It is rather disappointing that Igbo not only
knowledge is trusted in the power of their welcome the white missionaries to their land but they
ancestral gods to guide them to give fair and also easily allocate them a piece of it. The decision by the
unbiased ruling. However, one of the first things rulers of Mbanta to allocate land to the missionaries was
that the white missionaries do when they arrive the worst mistake the Igbo could make (Achebe 105). It
in the village is to replace Igbo courts with gave the missionaries the impression that the Igbo are a
theirs. This disadvantages the villagers as the weak society that they could easily influence with their
white missionaries do not know the history of culture. However, it can also be argued that the decision
Igbo, their culture or their system of justice. It by the Igbo to keep the piece of land where the evil
can be argued that this is one of the many forest lay is an indication of the respect and loyalty they
mistakes that the missionaries make when they still have for their own culture (Achebe 105). But,
first decide to take over Igbo and their territory. because the Igbo fail to make known to the white
In this sense Igbo do not know what is lawfully missionaries the dark nature of the forest, any remorse
right or wrong in the white man’s courts. That is concerning the new culture and religion is lost. Hence,
why the leaders of the village are surprised when the white missionaries remain unopposed and in control
they are imprisoned after burning the missionary of Umuofia and its people. As far as the Igbo are
church. The action by the missionaries in not concerned the white missionaries are aliens because
considering Igbo laws and customs in their their origin is not known to them. They do not even
hostile takeover shows that they do not care understand the concept behind Christianity. This is
about Igbo tradition or culture. because until now the nature of white people and their
Rather, they appear to be so keen on forcing their own culture has existed outside of their language. To the Igbo
culture on the Igbo that they do not see that they are it means it has simply not existed, and this ultimately
destroying Igbo culture and that they could learn from leads to the doom of their culture as they are confused
the Igbo to better understand them and their way of life. about how to react to this new religion. Because the
This lack of consideration of the Igbo and their well- white missionaries are convinced that the Igbo are
being from the Europeans further creates the drift that primitives they obligate themselves to civilise them even
exists between the two cultures and drives them further though the so called primitives do not ask for their help
apart from where they first started. It also raises the or to be civilised. They believe themselves to be the long
question of the intelligence of the white missionaries. awaited answer to the problems Igbo society faces and
other literary scholars such as Edward Said of Orientalism not been referred to as such bad people as they are
(although not from the text itself) believe them to be today. At first Mr Brown arrived in Umuofia with the
cunning in wanting to take control of Igbo land and the hopes that he will be able to convert most if not all of
lands resources by coming to Umuofia under false the villagers to Christianity as well as to introduce them
pretence of their true intentions which was to rule to education. However, soon Mr Brown also realised that
Umuofia. The white missionaries arrive in Umuofia and he too could learn something from Igbo rather than him
almost immediately expect the people of Umuofia to totally disregarding the little knowledge they had. He
submit to their authority and without any question. was an accommodating individual to all of the villagers
However, on the other hand, the missionaries serve as a (even to the non-converts) and did not force them to
ray of hope to the people that Igbo religion gives no become Christians. “Whenever Mr. Brown went to
favour to. For example, it is a common and acceptable Umuofia, he spent long hours with Akunna in his obi
practice in Igbo culture that twins are killed, boys are talking about religion through an interpreter. However,
sacrificed or dead infants are mutilated, etc. (Achebe neither of them succeeded in winning the other to their
xxxvi). Some villagers are excited to go along with the belief, but they did learn more about their dissimilar
white men’s idea seeing that it is the only way to escape faiths” (Achebe 126). The wrong approach taken by the
from their own religion. Okonkwo’s son Nwoye is among Westerners is seen in their attitude towards the Igbo of
the first converts to Christianity (Achebe 107). This total submission and gratitude from them. Their arrival in
decision came after the sacrifice of Ikemefuna who was Umuofia came unexpected and it did not help that upon
16 | P a g e almost a brother to Nwoye. Nwoye was their arrival they thought that because they were more
totally against the decision made by Igbo to kill his civilised and educated they should be the ones to rule in
brother, hence he protests against this act by joining the Umuofia and not Igbo. By so doing they immediately
church and choosing to attend school. His father on the unintentionally belittled the status and importance of
other hand is not at all pleased with Nwoye’s decision to Igbo in their own land. This is a great disrespect to Igbo
join Christianity. Although Okonkwo is disappointed in and their ancestors, which is what angered and offended
his son’s choice he does not act on it. It is then assumed the Igbos the most. It would have been pleasant if the
that Okonkwo somehow expected this kind of behaviour missionaries held the Igbo people at the same high
from his son as he always saw Nwoye as “weak and standard they thought they were at.
woman-like” (Strong-Leek 2). However, Okonkwo ends
up disowning his son, Nwoye after he abandons the Igbo CONCLUSION
religion. The decision by Okonkwo to disown his only In summary the fall of Igbo culture as well as the fall of
son for following another religion is yet another example Okonkwo cannot only be attributed to their strong belief
of Igbo’s inability to deal with change, especially that system and rooted cultural heritage. The aim of Things
which has not existed within the Igbo language. By Fall Apart is to explore the imperfections of Igbo culture
abandoning his own religion, Nwoye disrespects his as well as its strengths. Although Achebe presents these
father in the worst possible way. However, because imperfections to readers that also contribute to the
Okonkwo is unaware of the Christian culture he cannot destruction of their culture; the main reason for the fall
act against his son. It is apparent that committing suicide of the Igbo was caused by their inability and reluctance
is Okonkwo’s way of going against Christianity. This act to learn English because they believed that they will
not only costs him his life but it also takes away the never have to apply its usage in their everyday lives.
respect Umuofia once had for him. Another convert to Also, because the missionaries were stronger than the
Christianity is a pregnant mother. She has watched her Igbo with regard to their advancement in modern day
children on more than one occasion being put to death life and education, they had a stronger influence as well
because they were twins and this, according to Igbo as controlling power of Igbo land and the Igbo
tradition, because it was uncommon and was the work of themselves. The missionaries used a hostile approach in
the devil. She converts to Christianity to protect her taking over the ruling powers of Igbo land from its
unborn child or children. Along with Nwoye and the natives by using their influence to spread their gospel
pregnant mother, many outcasts of the village become and at the same time abolishing Igbo traditional customs
passionate followers of Christianity because in “God’s and beliefs. Hence, the missionaries were particularly
eyes (though in not in the eyes of the missionaries) they superior to Igbo just as the author explains. The white
are equals to everyone else” (Akers-Rhoads 69). The missionaries saw Igbo as uncivilised individuals in
decision to follow Christianity by some members of Igbo desperate need of their help. Although the motive of the
society is greatly influenced by the suffering they had arrival of missionaries in Umuofia was to rule over its
incurred from their own culture. Because they are so people, the missionaries should have also seen this as a
eager to get out of the pain and misery that Igbo way of a cultural exchange between the two. Because
religion had put them through, they do not realise that both Igbo and the missionaries had until now not known
by joining the white missionaries they are actually of the culture of the other. The cultural exchange
making things harder for themselves in the long run. between the two could have benefited the Igbo more
Achebe is successful in making readers aware that because they have not shown interest in knowing of the
although the effect of European colonialism challenges world that exists outside of Umuofia and had the white
the culture of Igbo, the benefits of it can also be seen. missionaries not arrived in their land, they would still be
Igbo society stands to benefit from the school and from clueless of the existence of mankind elsewhere. It is
other smaller things such as bicycles that the white men without a doubt that the white missionaries believed
come with. Forcing Igbo people to abandon their own themselves to be superior in comparison to Igbo, that is
way of life to follow theirs seems to be the only factor why they had some of the converts of Christianity be
that makes the white missionaries bad people in history. their messengers. The white men saw Igbo as a burden
In my opinion the white missionaries take the wrong that they had to take care of by informing and educating
approaches in their attempts to help civilise Igbo society. them of things they did not know. The white man
If all of the white missionaries who arrived in Umuofia believed his culture to be morally superior to Igbo
had the same character as Mr Brown, all would have not culture and this caused a conflict between the two
been lost in the village and the missionaries would have cultures. Although these problems seem resolved in the
present time, they still very much exist and are causing a
clash between the two cultures. Finally, it is important to
acknowledge both the benefits as well as the challenges
that resulted from European colonialism on Igbo society.
The Igbo greatly benefited from the introduction of
school and education in their society that helped curb
the rate of illiteracy in the village. Because of it, today
most Igbo are literate individuals who have dilated their
knowledge to be more “enlightened”. The Europeans
also taught Igbo about their own culture, and although
the Igbo found it difficult to transition from their own
culture to that of a stranger, they learnt something new
from it. Nonetheless, there are challenges that face Igbo
as a consequence of the arrival of the white missionaries.
Igbo lost most of the values that tied them together as
one; social coherence between the individual and society
was lost, coupled with their traditional values and way of
life. Because of the confused state of mind of Igbo not
knowing whether to reject or embrace these changes it
ultimately led to their fall mainly because of their loyalty
to the language. 19 | P a g e The arrival of white
missionaries in Umuofia was to take over the ruling of it
and because Igbo are a compassionate society that was
also unsuspecting of the white men’s intentions, they
welcomed them into their land and also gave them a
piece of their land not knowing that these men will be
the cause of the collapse of their culture. Without culture
Igbo society is as good as dead, hence the significance
of Okonkwo’s death in the end. Like Okonkwo the Igbo
committed suicide by not being suspicious of the white
missionary’s intentions in their land or questioning his
presence.