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Things Fall Apart: The Relationship Between Cultural Relativity and Superiority

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By utilizing an unbiased stance in his novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe promotes cultural relativity without forcibly steering his audience to a particular mindset. He presents the flaws of the Ibo tribe the same way he presents the assets—without either condescension or pride; he presents the cruelties of the colonizers the same way he presents their open mindedness—without either resentment or sympathy. Because of this balance, readers are able to view the characters as multifaceted human beings instead of simply heroes and victims. Achebe writes with such subtle impartiality that American audiences do not feel guilty for the cruel actions of the colonizers or disgusted by the shocking traditions of the tribesmen. The readers stop differentiating the characters as either “tribesmen” or “colonizers”. They see them simply as people, much like themselves. With this mindset, the audience starts to reflect upon their own cultural weaknesses. Conversely, the colonizers forcefully declare their religion onto the tribesmen instead of neutrally presenting their beliefs. Achebe prevails over his anger to present his opinion without forcefulness and with open-minded consideration. Yes, the colonizers succeed in converting many tribesmen into Christians; however, their success is subjective because they destroy African culture in the process. Ultimately, Achebe is successful in delivering his political views, but he does so by encouraging open-mindedness and cultural relativity instead of forcing his individual ideals upon his readers.
The characters in Things Fall Apart are not black and white: they are flawed, redeemed, frustrated, assertive, violent, reasonable, and genuine. These traits are determined by perspective, and the a...


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...heir superiority. Achebe embraces the beauty of humanity while simultaneously addressing its flaws. With his ability to contemplate conflicting perspectives, Achebe illustrates the benefits of cultural relativity. Achebe does not target religion or even the colonizers; he addresses people universally, encouraging global consideration and individual reflection. To accentuate the forcefulness of the colonizers, Achebe contrasts it with his own temperateness—he portrays his characters without generalization, he presents his opinions with a carefully restrained perspective, and remains calm in his writing, never resorting to hatred. Instead of passively resenting his village’s colonization, Achebe productively channels his specified anger into global compassion, showing his readers the value in considering different cultures with objective and thoughtful rationality.



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