ThingsFall Apart, above all else, is a formalre-introduction of the African Society to the world, and a call to re-evaluatethe image of this society in a truer light. Since Achebe’s message is primarilyintended for the west, his story too is crafted for the west and with several Victorianinfluences on the style of writing and characterization. There is a clear shift in hispurpose of writing from his first novel-ThingsFall Apart to his third novel-Arrow of God, where he stopsconcerning himself with western sensibilities and focuses instead on the establishment of African Literature asits own class of internationally recognized prose. This is mirrored in morecomplex syntax, a more traditional mood, and characters that more closelyresemble those of African folklore.
While these characteristics make the novelless palatable for non-native readers, it is Achebe’s way of showing thatauthentic African literature is self-sufficient, and its interpretation bywestern audiences is of little consequence. Achebe focuses on conveying a storywithout simplifying it. This is his evolution: a departure from westerninfluence to embrace a style and characterization reminiscent of traditionalAfrican Literature. BothThings Fall Apart and Arrow of God attempt to popularize a worldconsidered foreign by most readers. Chinua Achebe’s novels incorporate severalcharacteristics from this foreign culture, hence requiring some effort in orderto fully understand them. However, the technique used in Arrow of God isconsiderably more conventional than that of Things Fall Apart. Through ThingsFall Apart, Achebe desired to portray a precise representation of a civilAfrican society before his western readers- that lied in direct distinction with the common uncivilized depictionsof yore.
The humanization of a culture that was typically known as barbaricneeded a westernization of the written word amidst customary Igbo terms.Even with the novel containing metaphorical and cryptic aspects that are elementsof African speech, these elements are structured in a manner that is derivativeof Victorian Prose1.However,no limitations are applied in Arrow of God, and Achebe freely embracesAfrican native in his syntactical style. Achebe’s way of structuring divertsfrom convention of Victorian literature,and begins to reflect his vision for African Literature in the internationalsociety. The traditions of the Igbo society are narrated with greatlinguistic complexity, making the narrative pragmatic and laborious to follow.
As opposed to Things Fall Apart, the tone and diction in Arrow of Godpropose an extensive confidence on atraditional African syntax2. Thewestern influence in Things Fall Apartcan be distinguished in expository paragraph, where the reader is presented with descriptions of theprotagonist’s origins using plain language. The language used hence resemblesthe simplistic speech3 ofVictorian Prose, wherein common English was used as better connection with ordinarypeople.
“Okonkwowas well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested onsolid personal achievements.” (TFA, 1.1)Thesyntax of the first few lines is straightforward, with no sub-clauses or linesof complication. Idiomatic words like ‘solid’, which do not appear regularly inthe traditional African sense, are used frequently all through the narrative.The use of such English dialect in Things Fall Apart also permits thewestern readers to familiarize themselves with the characters and their setting.ThisVictorian quality lies in direct contrastwith the style of Arrow of God, where Achebe is not concerned withsimplifying his introductions. This is amply evident in the expositoryparagraph, where the reader is transported to the center of the action withoutany prior knowledge or preparation.
“Heknew it would come today but he always began his watch three days before itstime because he must not take a risk.” (AOG 1.1)Thecomplex-compound phrase with a comparative as well as adverbial clause involves the reader in the intricacy of the description, and provokes them to contemplateon the text presented since the situationdescribed is not clear. The use of such complicated syntax early on in thenovel creates a none-welcoming atmosphere for outsiders and this also suggestsAchebe’s refusal to abandon the complex style of writing for outsiders .Notonly is the syntax complex, but the lack of a proper introduction to theprotagonist makes this more effective to the environment of unfamiliarity thathe has used to the structure the exposition.
By diverting from plain syntax tomore layered phrases in Arrow of God, Achebe hence declines thewesternized simplicity of Things Fall Apart in support of the morenuanced approach of African Literature. Anothernoticeable characteristic of the text in Things Fall Apart is the occurrenceof a westernized tenor. The overarching tenor of the novel holds factors takenfrom Victorian prose and shows common moralizingcharacteristics of contemporary western literature4.The influence of Victorian literature on Achebe’s writing is evident in hisstyle of portraying traditional Igbo sentences. After Okonkwo proves hissignificance to Nwakibie, for instance, Nwakibie proclaims,”ButI can trust you. I know it as I look at you.
As our fathers said, you can tella ripe corn by its look.” (TFA, 3.16)Regardlessof articulating such rhetorical Igbo language, Achebe uses familiar,Victorian diction, to keep the novel pleasant to western audiences. Thelanguage throughout the novel contains very little traditional Igbo prosein contrast with Arrow of God, and the overall tone is that of Victorianera edification. Even the few traditional words used are balanced out byvernacular English that contextualizes the phrase.
Throughout the novel, eventraditional degrading theme contributes to a moralistic characteristic that is asignificant of Victorian prose. The “kite” and “eagle”(TFA 3.13)that alight together as symbols for unity, and the “toad jumping in broaddaylight” (TFA 24.158) describes abnormal behaviour to be an indisputable pointerof threat. These phrases are projected to provide ethical clarification, a notionthat had developed into a recognizable one to western readers through novelssuch as Oliver Twist, which surveyed ordinary societal concerns throughdidactic narratives.