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“Things fall apart” by Chinua Achebe Literature Analysis

In the novel “Things fall apart” by Chinua Achebe, the clash between Christianity and traditional animism religion held by the people of Umuofia is highlighted. Upon the arrival of the white missionaries, who later set the way for colonization, the Igbo people practiced their traditional culture which was seen as primitive as it contained symbolism which often contrasted that of the missionaries.

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Traditional animism depicted everything in nature as having spirits hence the deep religious importance attached to a number of things which acted as their guide in various matters (Achebe 185).

The people of Umuofia believed that a swarm of locusts was symbolic of plenty of food. Just before the arrival of the white missionaries, there was a swarm of locusts that invaded their land, while Christians would see this as a sign of famine, the people of Umuofia saw a large forthcoming feast.

When it came to delivery of judgment upon a wrong doing, the Igbo people believed that one was unaccountable for the wrongs committed and the decision on whether it was a bad deed and the punishment were borrowed from what the ancestors and the forefathers practiced and demanded.

This is seen when the Mr. Smith suspended a woman from the church for putting new wine into old wine bottles citing that the bible says of how Jesus chased away those who disrespected the church, a view that was contrary to what his successor believed. However, the traditional view of the people was that the ancestors would not consider that a wrong doing and any rule would be applied upon the people evenly.

Animism demanded that every Igbo live in fear of the wrath that their god Chukwu would lay on them upon committing sin. This fear caused them spiritual suffering, mentally and emotionally which was considered as a sacrifice that had to be undergone to honor their god. For this reason, the Igbo people constantly demonstrated dedication as well as offered sacrifices to their gods hoping that they would never be angered. The spirits of the ancestors (egwugwu) were considered an important element of the Igbo people in Omuofia.

These spirits were believed to make themselves known by making certain sounds that would fill the air signifying that they were emerging from the earth. These spirits as seen earlier were very significant when making judgment for a man who broke the law. Animism as portrayed in Omuofia dictated that, sins committed by just one man in the clan were enough to punish the whole clan.

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For this reason it was important that every person worked hard to please the gods for himself as well as for the whole clan. In addition, the traditional Omuofian religion dictated that a person would be accepted back into the clan once they had paid for their wrong doings as is the case of Okonkwo who had accidentally killed a fellow clansman (Hunter 68).

The Igbo people of Omuofia had an oracle known as Agbala who acted as their leader in religious matters. The oracle acted on behalf of the people to consult with the gods especially in times of dispute. People travelled from far to come and consult with the oracle who would in turn interpret their misfortunes and plead with the ancestral spirits to reveal to them what the future held. In Omuofia there was a forest that was referred to as “The evil forest” that was believed to have evil spirits.

The forest was considered cursed and those people who were died in abomination were not buried but were thrown into the evil forest. This explains why they allocated the Missionaries a plot in the evil forest as a result of the hatred they had upon them (Mcgilligan 6).

People of Omuofia indeed had deep rooted animism traditions which were held and practiced across the land. They attached meaning to various forms of nature with a belief that they were spirits that guided the respect accorded to each one of them. The entrant of Christianity therefore was met with a lot of resistance causing a clash between the two religions.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann, 1976. Print.

Hunter, Jeffrey. “Criticism of the Works of Today’s Novelists, Poets, Playwrights, Short Story Writers, Scriptwriters, and Other Creative Writers.” Contemporary Literary Criticism 152.4 (2009): 60-76. Print.

Mcgilligan, Andrew. “Things Fall Apart: Christianity Vs. Animism.” Cultural Conflicts. 142.5 (2008): 4-8. Print.

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