Zoe Bardwell 12/ 18/17 Things Fall Apart Things Fall Apart is a novel written by Chinua Achebe. The novel gives the reader insight on what life in Africa is like by following the life of a Nigerian man named Okonkwo.
Although the novel is fiction, the author is able to portray what it was like to live in Africa and show the differences between our culture and theirs. Many of the events that take place in this story are shocking, and it is hard to believe that such acts could be committed. However, the addition of these events is what makes the story engaging.
Achebe is able to convey what pre-colonial Africa was like to Western readers while providing messages that people outside of the African culture can relate to. Those who are uncultured often assume that African tribes are simple and primitive, this novel tells those people otherwise. Achebe is able to show the audience how complex and dynamic an African tribe can be. Achebe made this statement about his book “.. I would be quite satisfied if my novels did no more than teach my African readers that their past — with all its imperfections — was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them.
” (Achebe) His goal was not only to teach others of the culture but to provide the African readers with an accurate depiction of what their lives were like. The tribe that he discusses has just about everything that we have in our society today. It contains leaders, families, and workers. With the similarities in the society’s comes a similarity in values and messages that can be seen in this book. One of which is the struggle that some have when dealing with change. In our society today, many people struggle with change. Whether it be making new friends, moving to a new city, or a change in laws.
People tend to struggle with changes even if they seem small. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe provides the readers with an example of how change could affect someone in the Igbo culture when Okonkwo returns to his village. He was a man of tradition who believed that the system that his people had originally had in place was reliable. When he returned to find schools and the spreading Christian religion he was displeased because it was not what he was used to and not what he thought to be correct. Not only did he not find it to be correct, but he thought that the implication of Christianity and the European culture would rob him of the status that he had carried for so long.
“…How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad, and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad.” Obierika says this to Okonkwo since he is also uncomfortable with the idea of Europeans taking over their village. However, like in every situation, change for one person might be better than it is for another. For Okonkwo he found this change to be devastating due to his loss of status, but to others, it was refreshing because for once they were not seen as less than or below.
They were seen more as equals than anything and to them, it was a positive change. The message here would be that a bad change for one may not be a bad change for all. And that learning to adapt to a change can be more beneficial than fighting it. In addition to the message of change, there is also the message of what a leader is versus the idea of what one thinks a leader should be. Okonkwo sees a leader as masculinity. He views a leader as someone who uses aggression and violence to get what they want.
He would beat his wives and act irrationally in order to show his dominance or what he thought to be leadership. His ideas are disproven when the missionaries come to the village. They prove that one can lead without threatening to kill or physically abusing people into doing what they want. A message is that a leader doesn’t have to showcase their masculinity, but rather their ability to be rational and their ability to negotiate and comply. This can be seen in our culture. There are who people still have the belief that a leader must be a man and that he must show manly characteristics. They find the idea of rationality and the ability to come to agreements to be effeminate. Although many if not most people in our culture do not see it that way, there are those who relate to Okonkwo in that sense.
The language that is used in this book is one of the more noticeable parts of it. Although written primarily in English, the author slips some Igbo language in to give the readers a better sense of the complexity of their language and therefore their culture as well. Since the book is written in mostly English, it can be assumed that the book was more intended for Western readers as opposed to the Nigerian people themselves. Not everything in their language can be easily translated to English, so by having it written in English, to begin with makes it easier for Achebe to spread his message and for those who do not know about the culture to learn. Not only did he write the book in English to help out the readers, but he also gave in-depth explanations of the different customs that the Igbo tribe had. These included justice codes, family rituals, marriage customs, the production of food, usage of land, and religious beliefs.
By including all of this information about the culture, it makes the idea of the book seem less foreign to the reader. Things Fall Apart is a title that could be interpreted into many different things, but in this book, it could mean that to Okonkwo everything did fall apart. From his status to his tribe’s traditions. For Okonkwo hose things falling apart lead him to commit suicide, but others were able to recover and embrace it. Okonkwo’s outlook on life was self-destructive, had he been able to embrace change, like his son, he would have been better off. This book not only sends easy to find and relatable messages to its readers, but also provides a different look at what Africa was like and how the people were affected.
Although not a true story, it still sends powerful messages and ideas that should be talked about more often.