Things fall apart Essay

Things Fall Apart Term paper

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When a person purchases a new novel, play, or short story, he or she does so because of some interesting word, phrase, or topic on its cover. These words, phrases, and topics are all broad forms of literary devices. Literary devices are present in all literature no matter what form. These devices make literature what literature is. The placement of verbs in contrast with nouns, the images conjured up by using certain words, and using every day themes of life are all literary devices and all aid in making a piece of literature what it is. Themes that are at end to one another constantly make great devices. This use of contrast is easily seen in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The contrast is most easily seen between the ideas of mercy versus the use of justice. Justice is the ideal balance of crime and punishment in which the law is attempting to reach. Because of so many mitigating circumstances, true justice is almost impossible to achieve. In Things fall Apart, Okwonkwo’s gun shoots off and kills a young boy. Punishment must be asserted for the irresponsibility of Okwonkwo to allow his gun to go off. The tribal law, fortunately, allows room for unintentional killings and this loophole is enacted. The result is that Okwonkwo is only banished for seven years. In Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, however, the character of Billy accidentally kills his superior, Claggart. The Captain, unfortunately, cannot allow any leeway for Billy, although the circumstances should have allowed. Captain Vere acts as the fulcrum and must decide what the appropriate action should be. Under a set of “normal” circumstances, the decision would be that Billy is innocent due to self-defense. However, because of the time being of war, the Captain is forced to condemn Billy to death and enact no leeway whatsoever. Mercy, however, is a literary device that seems to lacking in many works. Mercy is a) the understanding that certain circumstances require actions that are not governed by everyday decisions ;or b) a lessening of a punishment due to personal morals dictating that the punishment being dispensed is excessive for its crime. In Things Fall Apart, Ikemefuna is shown no mercy. In fact, he has done no acts in which punishment from the tribe is required ;yet, he is killed without trial, evidence, or anything of the like. There is no mercy for this unfortunate, young boy who has committed no crime. Mercy is also not shown to Shylock in William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Shylock had formed a contract with Antonio (through Bassanio) who had not been paid on time ;thus, Shylock wanted the reparation that is stated in the contract. What really becomes Shylock’s downfall is his persistence of receiving his one pound of flesh. Had Shylock shown mercy upon Antonio then the case would not have gone to the courts, who would not have found his claim unreasonable, and thus taken all of his belongings and forced him to change his religion. This is a never-ending loop of events. The conflict of mercy with justice is a never-ending struggle, as well. In Things Fall Apart, the British clergymen feel that because of Okwonkwo’s vengeful actions towards them for having converted his son, justice is to punish him severely, especially for monetary damage he has caused. The Brits show no mercy towards Okwonkwo, although they should have understood that Okonkwo is a “savage” who was most likely out for simple revenge. This revenge being for the Brits converting his son, thus causing his son to be exiled from the tribe and his family. Mercy on Okwonkwo’s part was lacking as well, however. Okwonkwo is too selfish and self-centered that he does not allow himself to consider the possibility that his son, Nwoye, has a mind of his own. If Okwonkwo had allowed Nwoye to convert, Okwonkwo’s temper would not have bested him bringing him to the point where he decides to attempt to kill the clergyman. Without the attempt on the clergyman’s life, the white man would not have enacted his law, which brought Okwonkwo to the point in which he hanged himself. In Billy Budd, Claggart did not exercise restraint in bad mouthing Billy. Claggart’s continued bombardment of Billy with insults combined with Billy’s speech impediment, brought Billy to the reaction of hitting Claggart, causing Claggart’s death and ultimately causing Billy’s death. Shylock, from Merchant of Venice, kept with his persistence about receiving his one-pound of flesh from Antonio. His lack of mercy towards Antonio brought the presiding courts to deciding what they believed to be just on Antonio’s and Shylock’s parts. The ideas of mercy and justice are always at ends with one another, especially in literature such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Because justice is ideal and “perfect” while mercy is imperfect because it emanates from humans, they will always be at odds. Whether seen in the mind or in the real world, the conflict will always exist.

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