Contradictions within Igbo Community
In Things Fall Apart”
Things Fall Apart is as candid in its critique of the contradictions within the Igbo society and culture as it is in its sharp denunciation of colonial hypocrisy. Discuss. Although it is not the first novel written in English by an African, Things Fall Apart is often hailed as the “First African novel”. Many “civilised” Africans wrote in English but their works could not be called “African”. These writers were merely “mimic men” who didn’t write from an African sensibility. They had completely absorbed and accepted the ideas of the colonizer which established them as “racial inferiors” and imitators of their colonial masters. Colonization had torn apart the fabric of African culture through the forcible imposition of European religion, culture and education. This resulted in the emergence of a new class of African educated Christians, who had a fractured sense of identity as they could neither identify with their uneducated counterparts nor with their colonial masters and thus were isolated. Their works mirrored the works of their colonial masters which furthered the colonial purpose of abasement of the native culture and supplanting it with colonial culture. Although Achebe also belonged to this newly emerged class, his disillusionment with the colonial culture led to the start of his writing career, during which he grappled with the effects of colonization to help the natives gain a sense of identity through the revival of the rich African cultural heritage. Thus, in his first novel, Things Fall Apart, he harps back to precolonial past of Nigeria to show, both to the Africans and to the colonizers, their rich culture and to shatter the stereotype of “primitive, uncivilised and barbaric blacks” created by the colonizers to subjugate the native people. Thus, by exhibiting the culture and the sophistication of the precolonial African society, Achebe is attacking the basic premise of colonization, which was to “civilise” and “tame” black men. In his novel, Things Fall Apart, he delineates the precolonial landscape of Nigeria, presenting us with the history, culture and religion of Igbo community. However he does not romanticize the pre-colonial past and provides us an objective insight into this society. This society is essentially patriarchal and deeply gendered which prescribes roles for both men and women. The ideal of masculinity of this society is embodied by Okonkwo, the protagonist of the story who is presented as a champion wrestler. He is a self-made man who did not inherit anything from his father. Instead he was burdened due to his father’s idleness and failure, which he detested solemnly and thus pledged to hate everything that his father loved. He achieves success through his sincerity and hard work and grows into a successful wealthy farmer with three wives, many children and two barns full of yams. He is an incredible fighter and has shown incredible prowess in the inter-tribal wars. He is a respected member of the clan and has already achieved two titles. The description of the hero of the novel provides us an insight into the society which celebrates “aggressive masculinity” and upholds a man who works hard to accumulate wealth, women and status. The primary economic activity in this society was agriculture and crops such as coco yams, maize and yam were grown. Women were also part of the economy as they grew crops such as coco yams and maize but the king of the crops, yam, was reserved for men. Polygamy was practiced by men to ensure enough labour on their farms and over time the number of wives had become synonymous with prosperity of the family. Social...
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