The imposition of colonialism on Africa drastically reconstructed the continent. All over, European powers attempted to “assimilate” countries into their own, all the while exploiting and victimizing their people, culture, and resources. However, if there was one aspect of colonialism that provided a fertile ground for conflict, it was the unknowingly insidious method of introducing religion, specifically Christianity, into African families. This is particularly exemplified in the novels Things Fall Apart, Houseboy, and Weep Not, Child. Throughout these novels, the assimilation of Christianity within the protagonists’ not only results in a destruction of their sacred and traditional values, but also their well-being and those around them.
In Things Fall Apart, Achebe is able to express this embarkation with his division of the novel into two parts. The first part introduces Okonkwo along with his family’s beliefs and their origins, religions, etc. However, in the second part with the arrival of the Christian missionaries, the seeds of colonialism take root within the Ibo tribe and Okonkwo’s family, particularly in his son Nwoye. At the beginning, the missionaries are calm and peaceful. However, as time goes on they start to undergo their mission and start to denounce the Ibo’s gods as “false gods, gods of wood and stone.” At first, many are appalled and find their preaching laughable, but as they continue to thrive, people such as Nwoye begin to reach out. Because Nwoye is unable to forgive Okonkwo for his betrayal in killing his adopted brother, he converts to Christianity in an attempt to get back at his father for his crime. In addition, the missionaries’ hymn about brothers living in “darkness and fear,...
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...is this huge faith in all the aspects of his life, family, education, and religion which result in his suicidal despair. Had he not believed so fully, it would have not have been so brutal.
In conclusion, it is clear that the coming of Christianity to Africa was not greeted with open arms. While it granted Africans the chance to acquire new teachings, it also insinuated itself within politics, family, and traditions, utterly destroying them from the inside out. Having been detailed within novels by Achebe, Oyono, and Thiong’o, it is easy to see how these “pacifying” roles eventually led to a total conquest for all of Africa.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994. Print.
Oyono, Ferdinand, and John Reed. Houseboy. London: Heinemann, 1966. Print.
Thiongʼo, Ngũgĩ Wa. Weep Not, Child. London: Heinemann Educational, 1964. Print.
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