Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe

1105 Words3 Pages

With a socially imposed and personal devotion to attain a highly regarded status in his clan, Okonkwo’s life was one that valued traditional authority, customs, and kinship. As a protagonist, Okonkwo’s story exemplifies the altering role of the state as the marching boots of colonialism enter his village, Iguedo. In Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, he illustrates the societal life of the Umuofia clan prior to the arrival of and the encounter with early colonizers - offering an Igbo account of the transformation of local institutions. Once wielded by elders and the spiritually divine, the power of control fell into the hands of foreigners. Worship of ancestors, the supreme deity Chikwu, and other Earth gods transferred to the God revealed in the Bible. The interactions between the institutions of rule, belief, environmental management, and trade are each delicately reliant on each other, so that in Iguedo the ability to rule fails to exist without belief, religious believes are derived from the environment, and the mercy of environmental conditions dictates agricultural trade. Through the life and death of Okonkwo, the novel presents how the experience of the Igbo and their interaction with the state witnessed unquestionable change.
The village of Iguedo, prior to the advent of Christianity, was one whose system of governance operated with autonomy. There was no dominating metropolis that controlled the territory and demanded taxation or tribute. In such a case, it was in the absence of a strong, centralized government that local influence became the dominant authority (Herbst). Instead there was a systematic rule of law, derived by local customs and cultural values, made credible by religious tradition, and enforced by ...

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...ric, and blatantly naïve accounts by Joseph Conrad in his Heart of Darkness, Achebe brings to light the level of sophistication and complexity of pre-colonial societies. Rich with institutions of governance and traditions of belief, Achebe counters Conrad in the claim that Africa was a primitive and empty land that simply was the antithesis to Western society. Through the character of the District Commissioner, Achebe makes this ignorance of Igbo society - and pre-colonial civilizations in general – abundantly clear. After written an entire novel on the intricate life of Okonkwo up until his symbolic suicide, the District Commissioner – just as Joseph Conrad – encounters the protagonist and synthesizes his life – albeit his death - to a couple paragraphs. Only in the perspective of those with in pre-colonial Africa do we truly see how things really just fell apart.

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