Evil in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

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Evil in Things Fall Apart

Throughout the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the reader feels evil. Evil is a concept that is hard to define. The dictionary defines it as " morally bad; wicked" (Funk & Wagnalls 220). But is the definition of evil really as simple as that? Many would say that there is more to defining evil than just a few words. Evil can also be defined by a culture. If one were to study various cultures around the world, he or she would discover that each culture has a different way of defining evil. Even world politics sometimes plays a role in defining evil. But one's personal definition seems to have the most impact on what one thinks is evil.

Theology has played a strong role in defining evil for thousands of years. The Bible teaches Christians that Satan is evil, and not to follow his teachings. Evil as a concept in Christianity developed in the third and fourth centuries. During that time, St. Augustine determined that "Evil is the privation, or absence, of good, as darkness is the absence of light." (Funk&Wagnalls19) In modern times, theology has had a difficult time defending the existence of God in light of the many atrocities that have occurred in the last 100 years, such as the Holocaust, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. As a result, theology is now having to redefine what evil is.

Cultures and politics among cultures have a way of defining evil for their own inhabitants. The Europeans who visited the Ibo culture in Things Fall Apart viewed many of the customs that the natives practiced as evil or barbaric or primitive. The Ibo concept of the "Evil Forest" was one of them. It was something that each village had and "In it were buried all those who died of the really evil diseases, like leprosy and smallpox." (Achebe 148) Another belief held by the tribe in the novel is that if a woman has children, and each dies under "evil" circumstances, then she is under attack by an evil tormentor. The remedy to this problem is to " Let her not sleep in her hut. Let her go and stay with her people. In that way she will elude her wicked tormentor and break its evil cycle of birth and death" (Achebe 77).
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