things fall apart Essay

Things Fall Apart Term paper

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Chinua Achebe's novel, "Things Fall Apart," is a well written narrative about the Ibo community in Nigeria, Africa. Achebe took the title of the novel from a poem called "The Second Coming," by W.B. Yeats. It appears that Yeats is making some judgement on the European way of thinking that was so greatly affecting the rest of the world at the time. The poem describes human flaws resulting in social collapse. Achebe successfully holds on to the same theme in "Thing Fall Apart," as the narrarator tells the story of a small African society and the British colonizers that come to take over the Ibo community introducing new religion, technology, and government. Yeats' poem implies that the final invocation of collapse is lead by an anti-christ. Achebe does not trail away from this same idea. In his novel he introduces the colonizers as invasive religious men that ultimately lead the collapse of the Ibo community. Achebe's initial purpose for writing "Things Fall Apart," was to illustrate the dynamics of African society. Until then, native Africans were judged as primitive. The most common adjective for the natives, as described by Joseph Conrad on behalf of western Europeans was "black." For example, in his novel, "Heart of Darkness," he writes, "A black figure stood up, strode on long black legs, waving long black arms...." In Achebe's essay, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," he writes that, " Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as 'the other world,' the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization." Achebe wrote his novel to tell the misunderstood story of African society. In the novel, the narrator tells the story of an African culture in it's complexity, including religion, tradition, and even a government with a judicial system. He gives life and character to the "dark" and "primitive" natives that Conrad describes, and Achebe writes the novel in a completely different style than "Heart of Darkness." Instead of getting even by stereotyping the whites as Conrad did the blacks, he plays the role of the better man by giving human characteristics, good ones as well as bad ones, to his white characters, as well as his black characters. Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith, the white christians that come to convert natives, contrast eachother. Achebe sees through a simplistic explanation of christian colonizers, and acknoledges them as human. Mr. Brown is more open-minded and peaceful while Mr. Smith, who believes blackness is evil, openly condemns Mr. Browns ways. Their disagreement reveals a flawed structure which clues the reader in on what Achebe thinks will eventually be their fate, taking us back to Yeats', who believes that no one religion can last, and that we are in a constant succession of change. Achebe writes the novel in a realistic fashion. He in no way presents the Ibo culture as ideal, he presents it and all its flaws just as he treats the British characters. His main character Okonkwo was lead to his own destruction because of his flaw, as did the town of Umuofia, that could not withstand against the imperialists. Achebe allows himself to be just as critical about the Ibo culture as he is of the colonizers. He is not trying to ideallize or honor his people for anything more than they were. He simply illustrates who they were.

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