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The Book “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe

Introduction

Chinua Achebe is a renowned author not just in Africa but also in international literature. With the help of his writings, Chinua Achebe thrills readers across the globe with the creative application of language, structure, form, and precise insider accounts of modern African history and way of life. With the application of literary devices such as imagery, symbolism, metaphor, and irony, Things Fall Apart is considered a classical publication and is read and taught far and wide in the English-speaking nations. In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe presents the setting of a man whose rules get into a collision with rituals and beliefs of his country’s established culture (El Arbaoui, 2018). Things Fall Apart is among the highly illuminating and lasting testaments to African experience. Chinua Achebe does not just capture life in a pre-colonial African village but articulates the misfortune of loss in the country while enhancing the reader’s comprehension of contemporary occurrences. Literary devices have a vital function in enhancing the major themes in Things Fall Apart and earning its extensive reception as an excellent piece of literature.

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Analysis

Things Fall Apart is a classic depiction regarding Africa’s dreadful encounter with Europeans as they attempt to build a colonial presence in the region. Offered through fictional encounters of Okonkwo, a rich and brave Igbo soldier from Umuofia, Things Fall Apart examines a single man’s fruitless resistance to the undervaluing of his traditions by novel religious and political forces as the rest of society conforms to the mighty new order. The life and experiences of Okonkwo are ironic from the futile resistance despite his relentless efforts to the suicide of such a brave man. The narrative may be viewed as a superb postcolonial novel thanks to its precise representation and recounting of the kind of experiences that colonialists face (El Arbaoui, 2018). Additionally, Chinua Achebe’s reason for the introduction of the novel could have been symbolic and an approach of counteracting the racist depictions of the African continent.

A careful analysis of the study establishes that nothing falls apart in the book, except the irony in Okonkwo eventually committing suicide due to his illusions and pride. Therefore, the death of Okonkwo may be attributed to his firm and rigid character. He has a selfish personality that puts the cultural and religious beliefs of the region at risk. Committing suicide represents Okonkwo’s eventual articulation of the compound forces of his experiences in the unwavering craving to become a champion. Although such interpretations appear practical to explain the cause of Okonkwo’s suicide, affirming that they are the only reasons behind the catastrophe is also narrowmindedness. Diverging from common outlooks, another reason behind Okonkwo’s suicide is a curse (Achebe, 1958). Although the notion of being cursed comes up in the narrative, it has been overlooked and not addressed exhaustively.

Using metaphor, Achebe calls the men of Abame fools for killing a man who says nothing. The man who says nothing is metaphorical of the affable white men, the missionaries. In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe represents two depictions of the arrival of White men in Umuofia. He discloses an unbiased position towards the existence of colonizers and the futility of any form of resistance. For example, the moment that village heads meet to discuss the issue of the murder of a white man, one of the leaders affirms: “Never kill a man who says nothing. Those men of Abame were fools. What did they know about the man?” (Achebe, 1958, p. 140). This shows that the villagers did not have the aim of responding violently against the missionaries. Moreover, Chinua Achebe asserts that white men constructed health facilities and learning institutions, and persuaded people to learn to acquire the ability to govern themselves.

Things Fall Apart does not introduce the entry of the European missionaries as a horrible incident. In its place, Achebe uses a clear and sympathetic tone to present some humorous incidences such as the interpreter’s funny way of communication and the people’s friendly acts towards the missionaries. Umuofia’s residents are portrayed as flexible because they do not react aggressively to the European missionaries like the way that the village of Abame responds. Furthermore, even before the coming of the white men, many of the residents of Umuofia were already feeling dissatisfied with some of their cultural practices. On the same note, there is no specific evidence in the story to show the cruelty of the missionaries while imposing Christianity on the people. On the contrary, the situation was peaceful as Obierika explains in the affirmation that: “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceable with his religion” (Achebe, 1958, p. 125).

Achebe uses animal imagery to improve human attributes and help define facets of life. Some of the cultural practices of the Igbo people, even before the coming of colonizers, were despicable both for the young and aged, for example, Nwoye and Obierika. In the narrative, it is found that Lovesey sees the two as representatives of the flexibility of the clan attributable to their unlike reaction to arising changes. Obierika states that: “The clan was like a lizard; if it lost its tail it soon grew another” (Achebe, 1958, p. 171). Lovesey affirms that being faithful and mistrustful, concurrently, to the customs of the community generates an inner and external clash for the members. This is evident the moment Obierika deeply feels uncomfortable regarding the chucking out of Okonkwo from the community, yet he is amid the people who participate in setting his compound on fire. Therefore, the source of cultural disorder within the community is imminent before the entry of colonizers.

Achebe employs metaphor in equating Okonkwo with fire that is so fierce that it burns itself out. Although it is difficult for a person to kill his son, the condition of Okonkwo following the murder of the boy starts to increasingly worsen. Okonkwo is thereafter highly distressed to a point of lacking the capacity to eat or sleep for a couple of days. Being cognizant of his continued deterioration, Okonkwo openly confesses it. It appears that the father, Okonkwo, is not in a position of safeguarding his family (in line with the social anticipation of his responsibility), he is overcome by a curse and collapses. His greatest mistake, even according to Igbo’s culture, renders Okonkwo a provoked and doomed person (El Arbaoui, 2018). It is evident that the ghost of Ikemefuna does not depart from Okonkwo, and this makes him feel unrest.

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The white men make their entry in the nation at a period when Okonkwo is in exile. The moment that they make their appearance in Mbanta, Okonkwo is confronted with a new opponent or great danger that is external and powerful (Achebe, 1958). People start to readily acclimatize to the missionaries’ religious beliefs, especially the villagers who had been side-lined by the clan because they find solace and place in the new culture. It is such experiences that make Okonkwo’s optimism in the men of Umuofia fall apart, which ironically results in his committing suicide to depart from them. Okonkwo’s inflexibility and self-centeredness make him an uncommon and overwhelmed person contrary to the rest of the members of the community who seem more flexible than him.

Conclusion

Chinua Achebe represents a celebrated writer not just in Africa but also in global literature. Things Fall Apart is deemed a classic novel and is read and taught all over in the English-speaking countries. Literary devices such as imagery, symbolism, metaphor, and irony have a vital purpose in supporting key themes in Things Fall Apart and earning it extensive recognition as an outstanding piece of literature. In a clear and sympathetic tone, Chinua Achebe describes life in a pre-colonial African nation and expresses the trouble of loss in the country while improving the reader’s knowledge of contemporary incidents. Things Fall Apart is a splendid representation regarding Africa’s frightful encounter with Europeans as they seek to set up a colonial presence in the area. It has been presented through fictional experiences of Okonkwo whose unproductive resistance to the undervaluing of his traditions by novel religious and political forces worsen as the rest of the community conforms to the vast new order. It appears that Okonkwo’s inflexibility and selfishness make him an uncommon and overawed person in contrast to other members of society who are flexible and receptive to change.

References

Achebe, C. (1958). Things fall apart. Anchor Books.

El Arbaoui, F. (2018). The post-colonial reality in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart (1958). International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 1(2), 7-13. Web.

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