‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe narrates the story of the moving and tragic character of Okonkwo. He is one of the most respected elderlies in his village and holds enough power to influence his population. However, Okonkwo is helpless once he finds British colonization creeping in and destroying the traditional parameters of the village and their culture as a whole along with the ramification of their religion with the invasion of Christian missionaries. We find that the British administration, being more civilized, imposing their culture on the African communities and incorporating laws that they find hard to understand and digest. The book narrates the hard nature of these foreign invaders. It tells us from the point of view of the oppressed and colonized how they considered the native population to be sub-human and eradicates all cultural and social aspects that are considered traditional. The book makes one aware of the dark side of imperialism that in common perception was viewed as a noble helpful norm and a ‘white man’s burden’ to civilize the natives. However, all the incidents took place during a period when the protagonist was exiled from his land.
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In the book, things start falling apart with Okonkwo’s personal disaster. “Okonkwo was to flee from the clan. It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who committed it must flee from the land. He could return to the clan after seven years.” (Achebe, p. 4) This absence from this community proved to be the most important aspect of the book as he lost control over his people for the time being. When he returned, he found that his village has been taken over by British imperialist administrators and Christian missionaries. This was a huge blow for a community that was a complex culture, rich with history and tradition. We found earlier that this society was bonded with various ancient traditional rules, which were even operational even in art. The author mentions, “Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” (Achebe, p. 5) Thus, it is evident that when the colonial forces invaded their life things really began to fall apart for Okonkwo and his community during his absence, as he could have been a force to stop the change.
Okonkwo and his community quickly found out that they were no longer the master of their own lands and missionaries with Christian motifs were systematically eradicating their beliefs. In return, Okonkwo gathered other leaders to upraise and destroyed the local church. This made the matter worse. The leaders were captured by the administrators and were humiliated and insulted. This was the ultimate blow for Okonkwo and he decided to commit suicide, as there was no hope left even as the Ibo believed that committing suicide was an act of sacrilege. This was the height of things falling apart in Okonkwo’s world. He lost his position among his people, his land to foreigners, his religion to Christianity, and lastly his life and honor to himself.
Thus, it is seen that the most important factor in the narrative was the exile of the protagonist. The void that was created was filled by the colonial power and ultimately destroyed the culture of the native population. It is true that nothing is left to remain in the state that it previously use to be and in this case, the lack of leadership due to the exile helped the colonials to set root and ramify the local population of their wealth and culture.
Achebe, C; Things Fall Apart; Wellington: Allied Publications, 1999