Frederick Douglass once said "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." Frederick Douglass was a runaway slave turned abolitionist, and while his history is quite amazing, what is even more intriguing is that this quote sums up the theme behind two books that have nothing to do with slavery or each other. One can conclude, therefore, that oppression, whether by law, in tradition, or by circumstance, is a universal theme. It's sting knows no bounds, geographical, racial, or otherwise. The African American slave suffers from the same plight as the impoverished immigrant and the indigenous peoples subject to the invasion of Christian missionaries. Oppression, as a result, is a tie that binds two very unique novels together, or perhaps, just maybe they are not so different at all. Their parallels can best be analyzed by taking a closer look into the environments, the main characters, and the chilling symbolism present in The Jungle and Things Fall Apart.
The environments of both novels stand in stark contrast with each other; one a world of metal and machines, the other a land of straw huts and bare necessities. The common theme, however, is painfully simple. Both cultures are governed by the land, Chicago by the economy and Umuofia by it's traditions. In Chicago, when the economy suffered so did the packing industry. When the world demanded less meat people would be laid off. In Umuofia so long as all people lived by the traditions and l...
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...tion and all people obeying said traditions. When the environment crumbles so do the societies that are dependant upon them. The two main characters are driven men who despite heroic efforts fall victims to circumstances they are powerless over. Jurgis and Okonkwo both fight the good fight, but lose to a world the cares not for their troubles. Finally, through symbolism the novels truly come alive. The symbolism present gives the reader a clear depiction of the cruelty that is to befall both men. It is truly tragic how close these horrific stories are, a sad testament to dark chapters in time honored establishments, American economy and Christian missionaries. If these are the consequences of such highly thought of establishments, is there anyway to stop oppression from overcoming the world? It tends to make one think.
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