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Jeremy Stanley

December 2, 2008

Imperialism in Africa

In the novel by Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, he projects a culture unsettled by

imperialism. Even though the characters are fictional, the novel definitely presents a genuine

account of society in Africa, and the poignant criticism that Achebe points at the Europeans for

trying to imperialize the nation.

Okonkwo, the novel’s main character, and his family life is a window into the societal

pedagogy before and after imperialism in Africa. Okonkwo is a man of high power, with three

wives and has a few children. He struggles with the idea of his father, Unoka, who never made

money and was regarded as lazy. Being the son, Okonkwo has to rid these characterizations for

himself and for the perception of his family. The Ibo village relies on the strength of the

patriarchy, a culture dominated by the male leader. Okonkwo justifiably needs to act strong in

order to not be lumped into his father, as shown with the difficult decisions that he has to make

(when Ikemefuna is sacrificed). In this is his determination, and in some ways, his hubris to be

the clan’s leader.

When Oknokwo is exiled after the accidental death of a boy, a massive change comes to

Umofiain the form of Christianity. It gains traction, especially among men of lower class, and

soon his oldest son converts and leaves the home. Not only does the religion begin to gain

ground, but so does a new government in the form of European Imperialism. Okonkwo

eventually decides that he wants to fight against the “white man’s government” but is soon

defeated after killing a “kotma”, or a court messenger. He hangs himself so as to not be tried

under the “white man’s law.”

It also shows that change is in fact a constant. and Things Fall Apart demonstrates just that. The spread of religion could in fact turn into another nation’s reign over a nation. there’s conflict with other tribes. making it that the novel’s protagonist would rather die through the loyalty to the standards of his own clan and not “the white man. which gave rise to his disgust with the Europeans. one’s aspirations. The society there was ready to modernize. The society’s breaking point is when Christianity takes hold and a new government takes over. Okonkwo encountered this in the later part of the novel. No. tries to fight back. Okonkwo. and it pained him so. discrediting it. Achebe is more or less one sided in this argument. not willing to change his mind. but some of his fellow tribal leaders have converted.” However. When removed from culture. What Okonkwo’s experience in Things Fall Apart reveals about imperialism in Africa is that it was simply a bad idea. one’s belief about it may not change. but Okonkwo was not. but the government among the Ibo tribe there makes it so that all decisions are made democratically. . it’s not like Umofiais presented as a utopian society with birds chirping and no conflict. but once returning one may find that change has come in a tragic way. which ultimately leads to his death for the past he clinged on to.