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Muhammad Sabir 27.

Wasif Ali Bhatti 12

Sayed Sabeeh Javed 42

Post-Colonial Fiction

Achebe’s Defense and Presentation of Igbo Culture and The Unwanted Amalgam of Two Civilization

in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

This assignment intends to shed light on the unwanted mixture of two completely different

civilization; and Achebe’s attempt to defend his native Igbo culture, norms, notions, religion and tradition.

Things Fall Apart is undoubtedly a straightforward answer to the west, owing to the allegations made by

them that they (Nigerians) are barbaric and savages. According to the Christians, the native black Africans

are to be ruled and taught; notwithstanding, the Nigerians have completely different notions about their own

lifestyle and motherland. Apart from this, it is in the instinct of human beings that they always follow and

adhere to the environment they were born in. Keeping this phenomenon in view, the Igbo people, depicted

in “Things Fall Apart”, are contented with whatever they have; yet, the undue interference of the white with

a completely peculiar religion, is unbearable and unacceptable for them. In the first part of the novel,

Achebe introduces his reader with his native culture, religion, mannerism, ideas and practices; whereas in

the second part, he depicts the arrival of the so-called civilized, yet the real barbaric white man with his evil

means rea of exploitation. This unexpected arrival of a completely strange and exotic civilization and

religion establishes a harrowing situation for the people of Umuofia.

To aggravate the topic, the very first difference between the two nations is that of religion. Achebe

wrote in response to European novels that depicted Africans as savages and heathens who needed to be

enlightened by the Europeans. Achebe presents to the reader his people’s history with both strengths and
imperfections by describing for example: Igbo festivals, the worship of their gods and the practices in their

ritual ceremonies; their rich culture and other religious practices. The natives are polytheists whereas the

Christians appear to be monotheists. Furthermore, the natives also believe in different deities, goddesses and

priestesses. They even worshiped their ancestors. The revelations and oracles brought from the temples

would be considered as the words of gods which could never be questioned. Even if that oracle had

commanded to kill their own twins, they would do that. However, on the other hand, Christians regarded all

these beliefs to be barbaric and of no value.

In the same fashion, after reading the novel the reader can know that culture conflict rose from

misunderstanding between two different cultures. The white men considered themselves that they were

superior Sto black people. And they thought that it was their prime duty to enlighten black people who

believed in superstition. The white people had a notion that African people had no history and they wanted

to make their own history of civilization. Achebe should become teacher and guide of the people and should

use the novel as vehicle to disseminate ideas and beliefs among the people. He suggested the people that the

social function of the novel should be different from the European concept of idea. Human beings are both

acted on by culture and act back and so generate new culture forms of meaning. They undergo change

alongside changes in the economic, social and political organization of society. With the change of their

culture the people of Africa forgot the importance of their own tradition and values. They were following

way and habits of the white people which ultimately became the cause of their destruction. Okonkwo is the

main protagonist, who perished his life for the sake to defend his culture.

To add to it, Achebe also brings to light and defends the importance and value of his own culture.

The novel shows the life of Okonkwo a leader and the local wrestling champion in Umuofia one of the

fictional group of the nine villages in Nigeria inhabited by the Igbo people. It describes his family and
personal history, the customs and society of the Igbo and the influence of British colonialism and Christian

missionaries on the Igbo culture. The main objective of writing this novel is to acquaint the outside world

with the Igbo culture, tradition as well as to make his own people realize that their tradition culture

contained much that was valuable which must be integrated with the new culture that was coming into

existence under the powerful impact of the western complex culture. The Igbo culture is represented by the

people of village Umuofia is primitive and traditional. They had no knowledge of the plough and so it was

its social organization. They had no contact with outside world. In spite of backwardness, people were

prosperous and they lived a happy and contented life. Their way as depicted in the novel is free from daily

tensions. The Igbo culture is also given expression in their folktales, proverbs, and proper names. By

peppering the novel with Igbo words, Achebe shows that the Igbo language is too complex for direct

translation into English. The author’s use of Igbo words is a means of insisting on the otherness of Igbo

culture and language, to make the reader aware of non-English sounds and concepts in order to remind him

that the Igbo have a language of their own through which they express their culture. Through his inclusion

of proverbs, folktales, and songs translated from the Igbo language, Achebe managed to capture and convey

the rhythms, structures, cadences, and beauty of the Igbo language. Proverbs and folktales are used to

comment on the behavior and activities of the principal characters and to reveal Igbo moral and ethical

codes.

Furthermore, the novel also raises certain questions and puts them forth before the West; that how

can they when they do not even speak our tongue, say that our customs are bad; and our own brothers who

have taken up their religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our

own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his

religion. The natives were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won their
brothers, and their clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held them together

and they have fallen apart. Things Fall Apart is a story about personal beliefs and customs and also a story

about conflict. There is struggle between family, culture, and religion of the Igbo people which is all brought

on by a difference in personal beliefs and customs. Finally, the readers see how things fall apart when these

beliefs and customs are confronted by those of the white missionaries.

Chinua Achebe is a product of both, native African and European culture. His education in English

and exposure of European customs have allowed him to capture at the same time the European and the

African perspectives on colonial expansion, religion, race, and culture. This has a great effect on the

composition of the novel because he is able to tell the story with an understanding and personal experiences

in both cultures. He does not portray the African culture and their beliefs as barbaric. He simply tells it as it

is and how things happened. He states that neither of the cultures were bad, but they simply had a difference

in beliefs.

Similarly, Achebe offers a complex, self-sufficient, harmonious culture before the invasion of their

land. There are no jails; justice is accomplished by the reconciliation of the opposing parties. On the other

hand, the colonialists try to impose their laws, their police, and their jail on Africans. “They guarded the

prison, which was full of men who had offended against the white man’s law”. The result is a group of

people who are caught between the conflicting demands of two cultures. Furthermore, the colonialists and

the missionaries also have other things to offer: a government, trade, money, schools, salvation of people.

The white missionary, Mr. Brown tells them “that the leaders of the land in the future would be men and

women who had learned to read and write. If Umuofia failed to send her children to the school, strangers

would come from other places to rule them. From the very beginning religion and education went hand in

hand.
In the same manner, Achebe saw his role as that of a neutral narrator. Thus, he presented, in a non-committal

fashion, the tensions and conflicts between traditional values and alien culture. Yet the reader can also see

that he wants to demonstrate the positive qualities of the Igbo culture in relation to a Western idea of

progress and democracy. His target audience is the Western readers and he wants to show that Igbo culture

is also democratic, tolerant, balanced, open to progress and has a functioning belief system and an effective

justice system. He is presenting Africa in a way that it makes sense to Western readers. He is proposing that

Africa is not a silent or incomprehensible continent to Europeans.

To conclude, Chinua Achebe in his novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’ has given clear cut answers of the

questions which were being raised by the so-called civilized people of the West against his native people. He

has been successful in his attempt to depict a true and miniature picture of his whole culture. Apart from this,

this assignment has tried to bring to light maltreatment of native colonized African at the hands of the

colonizers. As it is obvious by the reading of this novel that the white came only with one aim in his mind

which was nothing else but exploitation. However, the natives had always been contented with their social,

political, religious and moral lives. Achebe, being a spokesperson of the whole community of black

Africans, has tried to show the real and noble image of his society that was being regarded as full of savages

and barbarians. The mixture of these two civilizations had never been a good idea. It merely aggravated the

scenario of African states. The white, being powerful, deprived the innocent people their ease and liberties.
Work cited:

Pala Mull, Çiğdem. “Clash of Cultures in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart” idil 6.35 (2017): 1893-1902.

Pala Mull, Ç. (2017). Clash of Cultures in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. idil, 6 (35), s.1893-1902.

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Ballantine Books, 1959.

Akers Rhoads, Diana. “Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart” African

Studies Review. Vol 36. No. 2 (Sept.

1993) 61-72.

Fleming, Bruce. “Brothers under the Skin: Achebe on “Heart of Darkness”” College

Literature. Vol 19/20. No. 3/1. (Oct. 1992-Feb 1993) 90-99.

Gikandi, Simon. “Chinua Achebe and the Invention of African Culture” Research in African Literatures,

Vol.32, No.3 (Autumn, 2001):3-8.


Ojaide, Tanure. “Modern African Literature and Cultural Identity” African Studies Review. Vol.

35 No.3 (Dec., 1992):43-57.