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Achebe's Treatment of African Traditions in “Things Fall Apart”
Miriam Ferrazzano Visiting student I.D. 0800308
“Things fall apart” is a vision of what life was like in Igboland between 1850 and 1900 and the experience of Ibo people under the impact of colonialism. quarters villages or towns. 2. the two principal villages in a union called the “nine villages”. Although these changes were proceeding. the economy was being reorded to reflect new commercial interests. The colonial power. Achebe makes a serious attempt to capture the strains and tensions of the experiences of Ibo people under the impact of the conolialism. the traditional society to fall apart. The conflict in the novel. the hero of the novel. Introduction The beginning of the twentieth century was the period of the crossroads of cultures in Igboland. It was also a period of sweeping and complex changes in the area later to be known as Nigeria. often attracting competitors who represented their clans. derives from the series of crushing blows which are levelled at traditional values by an alien and more powerful culture causing. It was obvious. vested in Okonkwo. too. The language of Okonkwo and the other villagers is expressed in the idiom of the Ibo villagers as Achebe transmutes it into modern English. the missionaries.1. were consolidating their spiritual influnce after the efforts of their pioneers. powerful and influential members in Umuofia. that these customs were disappearing gradually in the wake of fundamental change in the economic. after several expeditions. however. is a renowed warrior (celebrated in prais songs at religious festivals) and one of the most wealthy. social. a great wrestler in his youth. political and cultural life of the community. Wrestling was popular. was entrenching its authority over the society. there were still areas in wich a large number of people retained and preservated their traditions. and Western education was seen increasingly as providing opportunities fot the acquisition of power and prestige. The setting of “Things fall apart” is Umuofia and Mbanta. Things fall apart Okonkwo. in the end. The novel is written not only from the point of view of Ibo .
if he is always itching to demostrate his powess in war it is because his society . a character of intense individuality. yet one in whom the values most admirded by Ibo peoples are consolidated. for his most cospicuous qualities are a response to the demands of his society. the village of his mother's people. The character of Unoka is made to stand in direct contrast to Okonkwo's and to enhance his central position in the book. the man who better than most symbolized his race. The atmosphere of the novel is realistic and not romantic. the coming of the white man to the nine villages and the estabilishment of an alien church. He is both ad individual and a type Okonkwo was “one of the greatest men of his time”. taken in conjunction with an impulsive rage to wich he easily gives way and which produces irrational responses to situations. although there are romantic elements in it. the father. Things fall Apart has three sections: the first is set in Umuofia before the coming of the white man – before his existence is is even known. government and trading system and the gradual encroachment of these on the traditional patterns of tribal life. for sins committed against the Earth Goddess. the second part dramatizes Okonkwo' banishment to Mbanta. 3. Okonkwo At the centre of the community is Okonkwo. dramatizing the death of the old ways and the deat of Okonkwo. In showing Ibo society before and after the coming of the white man he avoids the temptation to present the past as idealized and the present as ugly and unsatisfactory. mostly through reports. If he is pluged by fear of faliure and of weakness it is because his society puts such a premium on success. for Unoka. Achebe suggests as well the flaw in his nature – his inordinate ambition and his refusal to tollerate anything less than excellence. In this connection the comment that Okonkwo had “no patience with his father” is important. the embodyment of Ibo values. represents everything wich Okonkwo personally despies and his life embodies the anthesis of those values most cherished by the Ibo people. Okonkwo is what his society has made him. the third section brings the novel swiftly to a close.people: Achebe is able to view objecti vely the forces which irresistibly and inevitably destroyed traditional Ibo social ties and with them the quality of Ibo life. and describes.
His character is partly determined by the negative need to be everything that his father was not. “Now he has won our brothers. farming and trading remained the major occupations. He remains firm to the old ways. Recreational activities centred on the community continued to link individuals. 4. and our clan can no longer act like one. Communal activity was closely associated with captivating music and dance. although the zeal of some converts to the Christian religion. were still held. their neighbours and their kinsmen. Not only has the white man brought a “lunatic religion” but “he also built a trading store ans for the first time palm-oil and kernel became things of great price. The missionaries in Ogidi In the midst of change. builders and fishermen along the streams and rivers. After the coming of the missionaries.reveres bravery and courage. and these festivals often accorded due reverence to custodian of the gods and oracles like the priest . blacksmiths. His sense of humiliation precipitates his final actions which culminate in his death. is arrested by the District Cimmissioner and placed in irons in the jail. and much money flowed into Umuofia” It is the religious principles embodied in Christianity wich Okonkwo sees as the force that changes the nature of village life. there were also still musicians. join an attack which is made against the Christian Church and for this. Achebe links Okonkwo's present temperament not only with the values of his society. but also with his revulsion against everything his father had stood for. Bitterly ashamed of the father who committed the unpardonable sin of dying without taking any titles. Umuofia has changed more than Okonkwo had been prepared for. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart. often based on religious rites. Adherents to the Igbo traditions were still in the majority at the beginning of the twentieth century. and the resistance of adherents to the old traditions. Okonkwo comes to associate faliure and weakness with him. sometimes met in conflicts. with several others. The festivals associated with various communities. and measures success by the number of human heads a man has won.
the headquarters of Indemili North). These visitors came bearing kegs of palm wine end were given large portions of meat on their departure. which may be linkened to Christmas. In the past it was an event that every Ogidi indigene respected and many people from other districts attended. especially those who had relatives in Ogidi. The desire of the CMS to estabilish a station at Ogidi may have had someting to do with the refinement of morals. Nwafor. takes place in the midst of the raint season. but the primary aim was to extend its area of influence beyond its operational headquarters in Onitsha. The major festival in Ogidi was Nwafor. this was the time at which young boys were initiated into these rites. My neighbours might think it was my funeral dirige. These early converts did not consitute a population large enough to threaten the major traditions of the people. however. who arrived in Ogidi from Onitsha in about 1892. The prescence of missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS). took advantage of the Nwafor festival not only drink a lot of wine and make merry. He probably thought it was some kind of circus whose strange presence added lustre to his household. which survived the initial inroads made by the advent of Christianity and the policies of the colonial administrators. A major characteristic was its numerous masquerades. Udo Osinyi: “For a short while my great-grandfather allowed them to operate from his compound. one of the villages of Ogidi (Ogidi means pillar. as you might think. but on the much more serious ground of musical aesthetics. is an Igbo town. although they did win converts in the town. Said the old man: “ Your singing is too sad to come from a man's house. on account of the crazy theology they had begun to propound.of Udo in Ikenga. among them Chinua Achebe's great-grandfather.” . but also to flog people who had earned their displeasure. But after a few days he sent them packing again. could not negate this festival. Not. It was a time for relaxation when all the major farm work had been done and people cast aside the depression induced by the rheumy weather. Young men. When the first missionaries arrived in Ogidi they responded to the Igbo tradition that strangers must pay their respects to prominent local personalities.
15 young men were baptized at Ogidi. “An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb” In this proverb. A few pages farther along the following metaphor is offered: “Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly. In the following year. Achebe uses the proverbs as vivid illustrative analogies. one of the first persons in the region to recive a Western education. He became one of the early converts of Rev. and proverbs are the palm-oil with wich words are eaten”. Smith could report 40 pupils in the school. Both images are drawn from nature – palm-oil and haramattan – indicating the connection between human life and the soil. in imagining the uneasiness of the old woman we are thus made aware of Okonkwo's discomfort at the mention of anythig relating to his father.The missionaries departed from the compound of Udo Osinyi without bitterness. 5. Achebe could not avoid using proverbs since they are highly prized in the society he has set himself the task of portraying. social and spiritual terms. for istance. enjoying the support of Walter Amobi. presented in personal. of late nineteenth-century Ibo society. but as early as 1901 Rev. Proverbs Achebe uses proverbs and this is a distinctive feature of his style. Among those who watched them go was a young man who had been attracted by their ideas and theology. Conclusions Okonkwo takes his own life at the end of “Things fall Apart” because he realizes that something critical to his existence has disappeared from his society and he refuses to live an alien in his own land. . Things fall apart is the expression of the tensions. Achebe incorporates much proverbial material couched in traditional verbal formulae. On the first page of the novel Okonkwo's fame had grown like a bush-fire in the haramattan. 70 people attending the Sunday services and 18 candidates registred for baptesim. He was the grandson of Udo Osinyi. and subdequentely the influence of the CMS became pronounced in the town. 6. stresses and conflicts. In the year 1904 Isaiah Achebe was baptized. Smith and was given the name Isaiah Okafor Achebe.