Imperialism: Things Fall Apart Compared to Primary Sources

Imperialism: Things Fall Apart Compared to Primary Sources

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Imperialism: "Things Fall Apart" Compared to Primary Sources

Imperialism is the act of a larger more powerful country taking over a smaller weaker country. Imperialism was very evident in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Africa, an up and coming country was a gargantuan country and just waiting to be taken over. At one point in time the entire continent was taken over by imperialist nations. The novel "Things Fall Apart" written by Chinua Achebe tells about the trials and tribulations of African people and their country during imperialist times. There are a number of primary sources that I have read that talk about imperialism throughout Africa. This essay will be a comparison between the primary sources I have read and the novel by Achebe.

"Records of the Maji Maji Uprising" is the first primary source dealing with imperialism. It happened in 1905 in Tanganyika, Africa. This was one of the first battle with early colonial reign in Africa. The Africans were told if they applied Maji (holy water) that they would be invincible to bullets (1).
1. G.C.K. Gwassa, John Iffle, Records of the Maji Maji Uprising, Sources of Twentieth-century Global History (Copyright 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved) Pg. 14-17

This made Africans upset because of the fact that they would have to pay

taxes to the country that was imperializing them. Germany was the

country that took them over, and now they were placing taxes on the

country that was not even theirs. This relates to "Things Fall Apart"

because all the different villages had their own set of traditions and values

and as the villages all became imperialized by Great Britain everything was

new, and they had to adjust their normal lifestyles to fit that of Great

Britain. In result of imperialism, many villages and tribes fell apart,

including families started to break away as well. Imperialism as a whole

brought down Africa, and as a result was extremely detrimental to the way

of life in Africa.

Much like the United States in the 1950's and 60's, Africa had its fair

share of discrimination. An example from "Things Fall Apart" would be

when the white man was spotted riding a "iron horse". Later we find out

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that the horse was only a bicycle. This man was extremely threatening

towards the African people. They feared that one when one white man

comes through, there would be many more to follow. The villagers soon

track down this white man and they murder him. The Africans were correct

in assuming that there would be more white men to come. The other white

men found out what happened to their friend and became irate. They

destroyed the village, leaving absolutely nothing. This compares to one of

the primary sources I read by Martin Luther King Jr. "Letter From

Birmingham Jail" was the title. He wrote the essay as he sat in his jail cell

for leading a civil rights demonstration. He stated that he wanted racial

justice for everyone living in the United States (2). Still to this day racism

is still in effect, just not to the extreme that it was in the past.

Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem, "The White Man's Burden". This

poem is about Kipling's idea that imperialism should be used more

throughout the world. He wrote the poem after the United States took over

in the Philippines soon after the Spanish-American war. He says that he

does not agree on taking over the entire country, but to at least imperialize

the land. He feels that the white man is superior and should to some

extent control all (3). In "Things Fall Apart" Achebe feels that non whites

should be seen as equals.. They should be able to control their own

country and not have to be bothered by imperialist nations.

In the source "Lord Lugard Justifies Imperialism and Indirect Rule in

Africa" stated by Lord Lugard, the Nigerian governor feels the same way

as Kipling feels. He was very much for colonial expansion (4). Kipling and

2. Dr Martin Luther King, Letter From Birmingham Jail, Sources of Twentieth Century Global History.( Copyright 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved) Pg. 293-296

3. Rudyard Kipling, The White Man's Burden, Traditions and Encounters, (Copyright
2006,2003,2000.All Rights Reserved) Pg.914

4. Frederick D. Lugard. Lord Lugard Justifies Imperialism and Indirect Rule in Africa, Traditions and Encounters, (Copyright 2006,2003,2000. All Rights Reserved) Pg. 924

Lugard are both on the same wave length with imperialism but Achebe

however is completely against it.

African American movements have gotten much better from years

past. However, because of years past their will always be a stereotype

when it comes to comparing Africans to Caucasians. The African race will

always be second. During the 1900's there were many attempts to have

equality and some have worked. However, all of the civil rights

movements happened in the United States and the United States alone.

What about the rest of the world? Even society today realizes that this is

the white man's world. It is sad but true.

Woman and their families were greatly effected by imperialistic

countries as well. In "Social Conditions Among Bantu Women and Girls"

primary source by Charlotte Maxeke explains how women were in charge

of planting, yard work, food preparation, and child care. When imperialism

hit cash-cropping agriculture came into effect (5). Because of this life for

women and children became worse. This lead to as I stated before the

breaking of families. Women were being worked hard and so were the

men, they seemed to never be around each other anymore. "Things Fall

Apart" has many similarities too. Becoming imperialized became very

5. Charlotte Maxebe, Social Conditions Among Bantu Women and Girls, Sources of Twentieth Century Global History. (Copyright 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved) Pg. 181-184

hectic and frustrating for Okonkwo and his fellow tribe members. Okonkwo

was considered a leader in his tribe, he was a feared man as well.

Everyone came to him for help. Okonkwo was not perfect though. He

made a terrible mistake one day and accidentally shot a Klansman. In

result of the shooting Okonkwo and his family were put into exile, and the

villagers completely destroyed everything in his possession. This included

his house, animals, and various buildings that he owned. In result of

loosing all his possessions it tore apart his very large family that included

many sons, all ranging from three different wives.

In conclusion, this paper I have talked about what imperialism is

and how it effected Africa and the rest of the world as well. Through

reading various primary sources related to imperialism and also reading

the novel "Things Fall Apart", it is evident that there are many similarities

between the two. Imperialism in result changed the world, and on top of

that changed many people's lives for better and for most the worse.
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