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Chinua Achebe’s classic novel, Things Fall Apart, is set in the village Umuofia in Nigeria. It is about the personal struggle of Okonkwo, the main character, to live contrary to his father’s own shameful and ignominious life. Therefore, he is often harsh toward his wives and children and tries not to show any passion or friendliness. Things Fall Apart also chronicles the colonization of Achebe’s village by European missionaries and its effect on the Igbo people.

Things Fall Apart is divided into three parts, the first two provide the reader with an insight into the cultures and tradition of Umuofia, using Igbo language for local terms. Before the missionaries arrived and introduced the Christian religion, Achebe shows that the village, although having its issues, was functional. Men of honor received their deserved rankings and the gods were respected. However, there were people who were unaccepted in the society, and others who felt baffled by things they didn’t understand, such as Okonwo’s son, Nwoye. Those were people who had a chance to at least explore their identities and feel they belonged to a society by the arrival of the missionaries.

Okonkwo, in my opinion, is a sad character because he is the type who doesn’t finally encounter a revelation in his personal journey, and in the end commits suicide. Superficially he appears as a harsh person for his fear of appearing effeminate. Although men and women had different roles in society, Okonkwo’s perception of manliness was beyond that of his village. He is haunted by his father, who died in debt and failed to provide for his family (even though a man was judged by his own achievements and not by those of his father), so Okonkwo works very hard and develops a tough attitude, often scorning his son Nwoye for what he sees as laziness. Okonkwo accomplished his wish; he showed everybody that he was unlike his father, and he gained several honors, but he was still an unhappy person.

The language of Things Fall Apart is simple but descriptive and renders beautiful imagery

“…And then came the clap of thunder. It was an angry, metallic and thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season. A mighty wind arose and filled the air with dust. Palm trees swayed as the wind combed their leaves into flying crests like strange and fantastic coiffure.”

Things Fall Apart shows that Africa is a complex continent, but also has problems like any other society (Ogbanje, or “a wicked child who is born and then dies only to re-enter its mother’s womb over and over again” and committers of dishonorable things such as suicide were cast in the Evil Forest)

Visit this BBC website to download a documentary of Chinua Achebe’s homecoming or watch it on Youtube.

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