Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Essay Example

  • Category:
    Literature
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
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    1431

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Things fall apart is a novel that was written in 1958 by Chinua Achebe a Nigerian author. The theme of the story is about pre colonial and post colonial life in Nigeria and centers around the protagonist Okonkwo of the Igbo tribe a respected and influential leader in his tribe Umuofia located in eastern Nigeria. This paper discusses the book and in particular the statement “reading heart of darkness….I realized I was one of those savages jumping up and down on the beach.”

From the statement, Heart of darkness is a novel written by Joseph Conrad. A story about a young man named Marlow, a sailor whose job was to transport Ivory up and down the river Congo. In his journeys he gains an interest in a procurement agent by the name of Kurtz. Kurtz had joined the company hoping to do great works of improving and structuring but once he saw what power he could have in the jungle he placed himself in the position of a small god to the natives. Kurt represented the Europeans and their companies that were full of greed for power and resources found in the heart of Africa. As a young man, he wished to travel to the blank spaces on the map because he wanted to have adventure in his life. His experiences up the Congo River teach him about the “heart of darkness” that is found in every man. The evil that lurks in people’s minds and souls and how many try to suppress them like himself, while others give in to their demands like Kurtz. We find that Marlow becomes more aware of his surroundings and what evils might be lying within it, what they embody or hide. He later realizes that the European society is filled with lies and convenient truths being the way they are able to survive and make others do their bidding based on false promises.

In things fall apart the heart of darkness can be seen in Okonkwo. He finds himself many times in the book struggling with his inner feelings and his manliness and how best to show and maintain that he was tough as a man. It comes after he is able to rise to become one of the most respected elders of the clan after coming from humble beginnings and he is constantly struggling to prove his importance and uphold his greatness (Vazanten 58). He is sometimes found to be very harsh to his family beating his wives and sons except his daughter Ezinma whom he was very fond of. He is extremely volatile and goes into violence over small matters. He rarely agrees with what others think or say and is constantly looking down on men who are not as successful as he is in the clan. He is impatient and does not like festivities and he even pretends to cause a fight with his wife so he could leave the festivities. His character shows his need to express his anger at the expense of others. Even though he is an angry man who gives in to his evils and is constantly fighting about something or with someone, we find that he feels affection for his first wife and daughter but feels that having and portraying such emotions is a sign of weakness. In return he hides his feelings and instead acts harshly towards his family.

Oknokwo being a leader of the community was asked to take care of a young boy by the name of Ikemefuna who was offered to the village by neighboring Mbaino as a peace offering. He raises the boy together with his son and becomes fond of him. As time passes by one day Okonkwo is approached by Ezeudu the oldest man in the village who brings to him a message from the oracle informing them that Ikemefuna had to be killed to avenge the death of a woman killed in Mbaino village three years before. The elder instructs Okonkwo to take no part in the killing since he was regarded as the boy’s father. In a horrid turn of events as the killing ritual is taking place, Okonkwo take part in issuing the second blow that kills the boy after he became afraid of being seen as a coward when the boy ran to him after the first blow was dealt. The second blow from his father is what kills the boy. Here we can see the evil within the protagonist, he is unable to suppress his need to fight and show his might. He disregards the bond he had with the boy and his role in their family and decides to go ahead and kill him to show that he is not a coward even after he had been warned not to do so. The killing of his stepson leads to the illness of his daughter causing great anguish within him. In the killing of Ikemefuna the author is showing us the beginning of the downfall of Okonkwo due to his actions and lack of control within himself.

During the burial of Ezeudu, the oldest man in the village who was regarded as an important leader, Okonkwo’s kills Ezeudu’s sixteen year old son accidentally after his gun goes off. Since the accidental killing of clansmen was regarded as a crime against the earth goddess, Okonkwo and his family are banished from the village and sent to exile for seven years. The passing of the years led to the return of the leader back to his village where he finds the place had changed a lot with the arrival of the white man with his churches, schools and prisons and he does not like it all, and does not agree with their way of doing things (Vazanten 58). He is later involved in the killing of one of the messengers who intended to stop a meeting held by the elders and this caused him to commit suicide after he sees that things had fallen apart for him since he did not get any assistant from the other clan members. Here we see that he is constantly fighting with his evil side which always seems to take precedence in his life causing him to make wrong decisions in the process.

Other people seen to have hearts of darkness in the book include the white men who come to Umuofia village and instilled their ways of doing things somewhat by force. Notable is Mr. Smith who comes in after the last missionary Mr. Brown falls ill and has to return to his homeland. Mr. Smith has low tolerance to the traditions in Umuofia village and is very strict about the laws put forth and is not friendly. The district commissioner is also harsh and jails the clansmen blaming them for the destruction of the church without actually establishing if they were involved and what their roles had been. They are later mistreated by the guards in the jail and were fined two hundred and fifty bags of cowries for the crimes, the guards add onto the number and even take some of the bags to keep for themselves. In this case we see how the white man uses the naivety of the Africans to ensure that they have power over the people. The British colonialist use power and violence to coerce the people to do what they want and are constantly showing the darkness that is in their hearts and their lust for power and greed for control over the Africans. In this case the colonialist came in and decided that they knew what was best for the people of Umuofia which was Christianity which causes division in the community as some object to it and others welcome it with open arms. The colonialists use a number of tactics to divide and rule the people including the use of court messengers as translators who come from the Igbo tribe which is different from the Umuofia bringing about more antagonism. The British disregard the Umuofian culture and force their own cultures on the people.

Work Cited.

Vanzanten , S. “The Headstrong Historian”: Writing With Things Fall Apart. Vol 46.2015. pp 58-103

Nwabweze, E. Theorretical construction and constructive theorizing on the execution of Ikemefuna in Achebe’s things fall apart: A study in critical dualism. Research in African literatures, volume 31, number 2, summer 2000, pp. 163-173

Osei-Nyame, k. G. Chunua Achebe writing culture: representations of gender and tradition in Things Fall Apart. Research in African literatures, volume 30, number 2, summer 1999, pp. 148-164