• September 22nd, 2020

Lesheni book corner: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe


Chinua Achebe (1958) wrote ‘Things Fall Apart’ in an attempt to argue against Eurocentric notions and redefine civilisation not as a form of spiritual, psychological and economic mechanisation by the whites but rather a remedy to alter that which is deemed harmful to the existing society. Through ‘Things Fall Apart’, Achebe recreated a romanticised African setting to debunk and subvert Eurocentric views of Africa that have been peddled by writers such as joseph Conrad in his ‘Heart of Darkness’ and James Cary in ‘Mister Johnson’ of an Africa characterised by cannibalism, violence and an apparent lack of “civilisation”. 

‘Things Fall Apart’ narrates the breakdown of African culture through the life of a man, Okwonkwo, whose struggles within the Igbo tribe and against colonial oppression, which is significant in that it presents a picture of the pre- and post-colonised African society. Achebe attempts to counter the colonial rendition of Africa by reclaiming its past with its thriving culture, which has been denied by the coloniser.
‘Things Fall Apart’, as a novel, illuminates the fact that while culture is the force that shapes society, it is also the force that oppresses and pushes us to the call of duty. A society’s customs and practices are a reflection of their perspectives, faith and beliefs as observed through the rigid laws of Omuofia. Additionally, the novel serves as a remarkable example of the portrayal of the positive and negative elements in a society and how a clash between them can lead to the disintegration and osmosis of a culture, particularly that of Umuofia. 

In ‘Things Fall Apart’, the Eurocentric version of African history denies that the African continent has a history in the first place. Before the arrival of the white man, Africa is portrayed as the “dark continent”, whose myriad cultures are reduced to one homogenised “African” culture that is ‘primitive’, ‘savage’, and needing the ‘enlightenment’ of the West. 

However, the so-called sense of enlightenment is the very factor that causes things to fall apart. Thus, not only is there a need to recreate African history but to also assert Africa’s solid pre-existence. Achebe demonstrates the civility, respect and order precolonial Igbo society exhibited prior to its oppression.  He demonstrates Igbo civility through his accurate depictions of the social conventions that existed prior to colonial rule. 
When all is set and done, Achebe draws readers to the conclusion that external forces are harmful to the stability of culture, religion and government. While he presents Nigeria as a mirror of an ‘apparently uncivilised Africa’, with violating and cannibalistic forms of religion, he actually acknowledges that those were the very roots and mothers of Africa. In so doing, he presents the Umuofian society as a village of its own that progressed without Eurocentrism – thus highlighting that Westernisation did not necessarily civilise us but it has indeed disturbed our stability.
*Kristina Xandra Tobias is a final year Bachelor of Arts in English student at the University of Namibia. The young mind is a multilinguistic who aspires to be literary intellectual, as she wears art and literature on the sleeves of her heart. –  christinetobias492@gmail.com


Linea Hamukwaya
2020-06-12 11:13:30 | 3 months ago

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