Colonialism in “Things Fall Apart"

Things Fall Apart

It is undeniable that literature, aside from depicting the creative imagination of humanity, has also served  to record the various things which has happened to humanity in the course of history. Though it is known that literature has fictitious elements in it, it also quite known that literature has been able to employ certain truths about society and the world at large by the incorporating facts in its pages. Thus, while literature has managed to be about fairy tales or romantic novels and others, it has also managed to depict serious issues concerning the psychology of being a child, the characteristics of the Victorian era and even global issues like racism, capitalism and colonialism. In fact, the latter issue, which is on colonialism is what will be explicated in this essay as to how it has affected a certain group in Africa. In the famous novel of Chinua Achebe entitled Things Fall Apart, it can be seen how colonialism has affected people and has managed to pull them apart in many directions that it even eventually destroyed relationships of families, friends and tribes. Though the novel is a work of fiction, there is a certain truth in how colonialism has indeed affected people to the point that the life of the protagonist is destroyed and resulted to his own death.

    Achebe's novel can mostly be seen as a narrative on the life of a single member in an African tribe, but on a bigger and deeper perspective, the book embodies the collective situation and life of the African people at the time wherein outside forces are trying to change the traditional practices of the people. In the novel, the strong warrior by the name of Okonkwo is depicted as the protagonist and his various struggles concerning his tribe and the changing times are shown. Okonkwo is heralded as a most apt and talented farmer from the clan of Umuofia and has become quite known for having such positive and appreciated traits. However, Okonkwo is having a hard time in trying to reign in his personality as he refrains from becoming like his father while trying to keep with the traditions and culture of his people. In the end though, as the English colonizers try to teach the people regarding the “truth” on God and certain practices, Okonkwo realizes that he cannot keep up with the changing times. He takes his own life in the end as the remaining people of his clan fully embrace change and the new things that the colonizers are teaching them.

    In the novel, it is quite evident that Okonkwo is the central figure. However, his life is not the central point or theme in the novel. Instead, the theme relies on how the battle of tradition versus modernization takes place in the form of the culture of Okonkwo's clan and the teachings of the English colonizers; as how Gikandi (2000) puts it:

    The central theme of the novel is what happens to the values that define Okonkwo's     cultural community, and his own sense of moral order, when the institutions he and     fought so hard to sustain collapse in the face of European colonialism (ix).

It may be seen that European colonialism is something which is vile as it has totally destroyed the culture and traditions of a group of people which in turn destroyed their identity. However, in how Okonkwo and his tribesmen practice their tradition, it can be seen that colonialism also has good effects since it has stripped the rather inhumane and illogical practices of the people such as how they exalt cultural violence. This type of violence can be seen in certain practices they had like “ritual sacrifices, punishment for crimes, and other kinds     of communal sanctioned violence” which is normal and accepted by the clan but is not entirely humane to the missionaries (Hoegberg, 1999, 69). Of all the positive effects of colonialism as appearing in the novel and more than the economic progress it brings, it is the lessening of ignorance of the clan and the opening of the avenue for new knowledge and erasure of such violent cultural practices which is more poignant and more impacting.

    On the other hand, colonialism has also had its negative and appalling effects by how the missionaries and the European officers have completely stripped the identity of the tribe and more than forced them to accept the new teachings while eradicating the tribe's previous teachings with the argument that such things were not true. It is not a matter of whether such traditions are true or not—what matters is that a person practices ethical customs that does not strip away the basic human right of anybody. Ironically, while colonialism wanted to put forth new knowledge on “true” faith and eradicating unlawful customs, the nature of forcing the Christian faith towards people who are reluctant to accept them can also be judged as an unlawful act.

    In conclusion, there are many aspects of how colonialism can affect a certain group or certain person as how it was portrayed in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Economically and socially, colonialism shows its effects by the growing opportunities given to people, making them more prosperous and more open to a wide avenue of profits and discovery. On the aspect of culture, religion and traditional practices, it is inevitable that those things take a complete turn for change as people would tend to be more open or forced to new knowledge and information, making them re-think on the previous things they do know and practice.     These aspects in turn affect the most important facet of the person or the people which is the psychological aspect—in trying to influence how a person or the group thinks, it will pave the way and become the determiner if there would be a chance for a change to occur. The effects of colonialism can be seen in two ways as with all things in this world, as either positive or negative and it should be accepted as such. While colonialism showed that something as important to the people like tradition and culture can be erased or changed, it is undeniable that colonialism has also brought on positive changes for the people. In the end though, what matters is that it is important to not lose one's sense of identity in the process of change and still keep one's own pride in heritage, culture and tradition—while people embrace modernity, one should never forget one's historу.


Abdullah Rawat said...

You want justice? Dream on bro the world is controlled by a simple thing with all it's very own laws and demands take a look of the new world order and illuminati videos on YouTube followed by the Islamic related episodes of 'the arrivals' you'll understand it better then I hope god destroys these unjust people. It's sad, this world is a joke

Sonal Baraiya said...

Thank you. From this post i pickup some points for my assignment.

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