The Loss of a Tribe's Livelihood in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart: The Loss of a Tribe's Livelihood

In Things Fall Apart we witnessed the destruction of a traditional native culture. More specifically we witnessed the challenge and weakening of Igbo spirituality, as well as the death of the tribe's livelihood. The apparent cause can be found in a seemingly good intended mission acting as a gateway for the intrusion of a foreign government, and its quest to conquer and domesticate a self-sustaining, prosperous culture. Although the Igbo downfall was caused primarily by the invasion of "Christian missionaries," their own religious doctrine and passivity played a significant role in allowing the initial infiltration of an alien religion, and the final dissolution of a once prosperous culture.

It is also critical to consider if this downfall could have been prevented or channeled to produce a positive outcome. History tends to repeat itself within specific cultures, and this is possibly the most valuable tool we can harness to provide us a means of escaping the destruction of the mistakes we have made in the past.

In Things Fall Apart the Igbo village Umuofia fell apart in two distinct fashions. The first aspect of Igbo culture to break down was the village's spirituality, which was led by the arrival of the Christian mission. Second, this mission acted as a channel to allow a new government to infiltrate Umuofia and challenge the laws and customs that held together the former Igbo way of life.

Igbo spirituality weakened in two waves. First Christianity provided answers that the inhabitants of Umuofia and Mbanta were seeking. At the end of Part One Obierika's thoughts are expressed:

Obierika was a man who thought about things. When the will of the goddess h...

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...ent the total destruction of Umuofia, it is important to remember that it is impossible for societies to stay static. Our world is growing at an exponential rate and it is inevitable that the boundaries of different cultures will someday overlap; but perhaps it is not really a loss after all. In Chinua Achebe's words:

. . . the world is changing so fast around us, and a lot of it we are not in control of, but what we do control I think we should think about seriously. . . . Where one story stands, bring another one to stand beside it, and if that's a better story, then it should displace the bad one. I think that's the way it should be. If on the other hand, it is necessary to have the two of them side by side, then you don't lose anything. (Interview with Rob Baker and Ellen Draper)

Works Cited:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Oxford: Heinemann, 1986.
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