Literature looking to their future , are engaged

Literature is a result of many and varied
intertwined influences and processes resulting into a product that reflect them
all in one way or the other. A novelist transforms his raw material into a
finished product of art with an eternal sense of novelty. As a result, Achebe’s
attempt is taken as a new kind of African fiction in English, sustained with a
wonderful sense of not only the past and the present but also as a sense of
presence of the past; as relevant are the words of S.A. Khayoon:

Achebe lends African colour to the narrative
and interweaves the igbo rituals….thus he uses creativity” his sense of the
pastness of the present and the presentness of the past.”

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Things
Fall Apart the best known book ever written by a black
African, first novel of Chinua
Achebe was published in 1958. He is regarded as father of modern
African literature. For him, his role as a writer was a social responsibility. The
book’s title comes from W.B.Yeats’ poem The
Second Coming. The book is lifelike.

The colonial experiences of Asian
and African countries helps in better understanding of their history, culture
and religion. The novel mirrors the attitude of the
Africans who, while looking to their future , are engaged in their struggle to
get rid of the aliened shadows.

 

It
is probably the most authentic narrative ever written about life in Nigeria at
the turn of the twentieth century. Chinua Achebe was one of the founders of a
Nigerian Literary Movement that drew upon the traditional oral culture of its
indigeneous peoples. A novel written by an individual who grew up under
colonial rule in response to the effects of colonialism on his culture, Achebe
writes back at the writings of European writers and the misrepresentation of
Africa in their writings. The setting of the novel is in Nigeria around the
turn of the 19th century, focused on Okonkwo, the narrator. Readers also
get an insight of the thoughts of most characters. Things Fall Apart , as the title suggests, is a tragedy. It tells
the story of an African clan being overpowered by outsiders and falling into
pieces.  This novel is a response to as well as a record of the traumatic outcome
of the western capitalist colonialism on the traditional values and institutes
of the African people. Achebe was awarded Margaret
Memorial prize in the year 1959 for this novel. It has been translated into 50
major languages, making Achebe the most translated African writer of all times.
The novel is a social protest and a medium of political reassertion.

The
present paper attempts an overview of the post-colonial discourse of Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart as a diasporic
novel.

The catastrophic impact brought upon Africa is usually
described in three stages. The first stages deals with the strategies adopted
by the whites, for forcefully introducing a form of administration, education
and religion and thereby inducing the natives to prefer western culture and
regard their own religion with despise. The second stage deals with resistance
on the part of the natives, and finally the third stage deals with the post –
independence stage. In this novel, Achebe focuses on the first stage.

 

Achebe’s
primary purpose of writing the novel was to educate his readers about the value
of his culture as an African. The inevitability of change in human life is what
Chinua Achebe tried to put forth through this historical fiction. Also, how the
rejection and acceptance of this change can flourish or degrade a society. Things
Fall Apart provides readers with an insight of Igbo society right before
the white missionaries’ invasion on their land. The invasion of the colonising
force threatens to change almost every aspect of Igbo society; from religion,
traditional gender roles and relations, family structure to trade.

Consequently,
Achebe blames the white missionaries’ colonial rule and/or invasion for the
post-colonial oppressed Igbo culture; this oppression can be seen in terms of
the oppressed social coherence between the individual and their society.
Furthermore, Achebe educates readers extensively about Igbo society’s myths and
proverbs.

Okonkwo,
the protagonist of the novel is a big fish in town. He has a great desire to be
regarded as a man of masculinity in all ways in his society .He is widely known
and respected as a wealthy farmer, a man of title with three wives and a
fearless warrior who boasts his masculinity. He sets out to make his own
reputation and fortune. He feels a deep sense of insecurity about being like
his father- weak, lazy, cowardly, miserable and shameful. He identifies himself
only with attributes of power and strength and does not tolerate any sort of
weakness.

The
main character of the novel Okonkwo is very suggestive. He stands for vigour,
strength, anger and destruction. Other major characters of the novel are Nwoye,
Okonkwo’s oldest son, age twelve at the book’s beginning. He is innately a
sensitive young man. Ikemefuna, a boy of fourteen who is given to Umuofia, a
neighbouring village, to avoid war. He is a clever, resourceful young man.
Ezinma, daughter of Ekwefi and Okonkwo; 
Ekwefi’s only surviving child. Obierika, 
Okonkwo’s best friend, who often represents the voice of reason. Mr.
Brown, the first white Christian missionary in Umuofia and Mbanta. An
understanding and accommodating man, he is inclined to listen to the Igbos.
Reverend James Smith, a strict, stereotypical white Christian missionary, who
takes over the church after Mr. Brown’s departure.

 

 

The
bulk of the novel takes place in Umofia, a cluster of nine villages on the
lower Niger. Umuofia is a powerful clan, skilled in war and with a great
population. One day, a neighbouring clan commits an offense against Umuofia. To
avoid war, the offending clan gives Umuofia one virgin young boy. The boy,
whose name is Ikemefuna, is to be sacrificed, but not immediately. He lives in
Umuofia for three years, and he becomes like a part of Okonkwo’s family. But
eventually the Oracle calls for the boy’s death, and a group of men take
Lkemefuna away to kill him in the forest. Okonkwo killed Ikemfuna in the
jungle. He came back home but his mind went back to the boy again and again.Being
a very hard hearted man he shivered with nervousness. Different questions arise
in his minds: ” When did you become(60)  
Later during a funeral for one of the great men of the clan, Okonkwo’s
gun explodes, killing a boy. In accordance with Umuofia’s law, Okonkwo and his
family must be exiled for seven years. Okonkwo flees with his family to Mbanto,
his mother’s homeland. There they are received by his mother’s family, who
treat them generously. During Okonkwo’s exile, the white man comes to both
Umuofia and Mbanto. The missionaries arrive first, preaching a religion that
seems mad to the Igbo people. However, with time, the new religion gains
momentum. Okonkwo returns to Umuofia to find the clan sadly changed. Worse, the
white man’s government has come to Umuofia. The clan is no longer free to judge
its own; a District Commissioner judges cases in ignorance. During a religious
gathering, a convert unmasks one of the clan spirits. The offense is grave, and
in response the clan decides that the church will no longer be allowed in
Umuofia. Soon afterward, the District Commissioner asks the leaders of the
clan, Okonkwo among them, to come to him for a peaceful meeting. The leaders
arrive, and are quickly seized, until the clan plays a heavy fine. After a
release of the men, the clan calls a meeting to decide whether they will fight
or try to live peacefully with the whites. During the meeting, court messengers
come to order the me to break up their gathering. Enraged, Okonkwo kills the
court messenger. The other court messengers escape, and because the other
people of his clan did not seize them, Okonkwo knows his act of resistance will
not be followed by others. Embittered and grieving for the destruction of his
people’s independence and fearing the humiliation of dying under white law,
Okonkwo returns home and hangs himself.

 

 

Things Fall Apart
tells two interwoven stories, both revolve around the main protagonist Okonkwo
of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first story centres around Okonkwo’s graceful
tribal world with its classical purity and beauty; symbols and beliefs. The
second story is about the clash of cultures and devastation of Okonkwo’s happy
world with the arrival of European missionaries.

 

The
novel is divided into three parts comprising of twenty five chapters. In the
first part of the novel, various ceremonies are highlighted. The focus is on
manliness. Okonkwo and his family, Ibo society and parables. It is okonkwo’s
will, determination and boldness which takes him to the rank of the lords of
the clan. It marks okonkwo’s success and rise to fame. He achieves many titles
in his society and excels in casting off his father’s tainted legacy.

Part
two of the novel marks a change in the life of Okonkwo describing his exile. He
kills a fellow kinsman and is forced into exile to Mbanta (his motherland)as
per the customs of his community. The focus is on women. All that he had worked
hard so far stared falling apart. He starts rebuilding his life.

In
the third part, Okonkwo returns to his land Umuofia after seven years of exile.
The arrival of the missionaries in the village was the cause of worry and
anxiety for the villagers. Umuofia had changed during this time. There were
churches now. He was deeply hurt to see the clan breaking up and falling apart.
In a feat of resistance to change, he kills a messenger from the authorities. The
focus is on conflict and final catastrophe, there is a reversal of traditional
roles. At the end, he ends up taking his own life rather than accepting the
change.

A
number themes are fundamental to the
novel. The struggle between change and tradition is an important theme of the
novel. Varying interpretations of masculinity, success versus failure, justice,
tribal beliefs, fear, tradition and customs, destiny ,clash of cultures, igbo
society complexity, preservation of dignity.

 

A
number of Customs, Rituals, Symbols are used by Achebe in the novel.Week of
Peace – In Umuofia, a sacred week in which violence is prohibited. Bride-price
– money and property given to a prospective bride’s family by the prospective
groom and his family. Lkenga – a carved wooden figure kept by every man in his
shrine to symbolize the strength of a man’s right hand. Polygamy – a man can
marry more than one wife. The Igbo week has four days: Eke, Oye, Afo, and Nkwo.
Osu – a class of people in Igbo culture considered outcasts, not fit to
associate with free-born members of the clan. Eating habits – The man of the
house eats separately in his central hut; Yam is Igbo’s staple food. Chi is an
individual’s personal God. The concept of egwugwu is very special to Igbo
community. A person wearing ancestral mask represents a village of the clan. He
is considered as egwugwu. His function is to make the judgment of something
wrong done by any person. The nine villages of Umuofia have their own egwugwu.
Their leader is called Evil Forest. The novel Things Fall Apart tells about Igbo community. The people of the
community dwell in villages that are surrounded by forest. The night is extremely
dark when moon is not in the sky. Oil lamp lightens the huts only whenever
there is no rain. The sun pours down hot rays causing pain and problem to
people and when it rains, that brings relief. Igbos generally depend on yam for
their food. They cultivate yam in their fields during rainy season. Yam is
considered as the supreme crop. Okonkwo works hard and grows Yam in his field.
‘Locust’ in the novel is related to nature. The arrival of locusts to Umuofia
is a source of pleasure to people. Undoubtedly, they cause destruction to
crops. Still, people become happy with their arrival, as they take locust very
good to eat. Umuofia, the land of Igbos is formed with nine villages. Each
village is represented by an egwugwu, whose charge is to control crimes in the
clan. Evil Forest is the chief egwugwu, who enjoys power in the clan. He is the
metaphor of construction as well as destruction.

This
is a complex novel which can be read at a basic level as the rise and fall of a
central hero in a rapidly changing culture which contributes to his fate. The
language is simple.

Achebe
sought to convey a fuller understanding of African culture and gives voice to
an under-represented and exploited colonial subject.