Post Colonialism In Things Fall Apart Essay

Postcolonial Aspect in Things Fall Apart

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Post Colonialism in Things Fall Apart Post colonialism deals with cultural identity in colonized societies and the ways in which writers articulate that identity. Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is a narrative that follows the life of an Igbo tribe at the time when the wave of colonization washed over Africa. The story tells of a man named Okonkwo who had always dreamed of being well known and respected throughout his village and neighboring villages since he was a child.

He didn’t want to end up a failure like his father and he worked tirelessly until he achieved his goal. However, although he was able to reach his goal at an early age, his life began to “fall apart” when Okonkwo’s tragic flaw, the fact that he is terrified of looking weak like his father, takes over. As a result, he behaves hastily, bringing trouble and sorrow upon himself and his family. “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay.

Now he has won our brothers. And our clan can no longer act like one. He had put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart. ” This quote shows how Okonkwo is doomed to lose the traditions he cherishes as his society slowly falls apart. He is opposed to change and he desperately tried to hold onto the traditional values and practices of his society. He does so in the midst of an alien European invasion which ultimately results in the disintegration of this traditional African society.

Achebe takes the reader through the daily lives of the Ibo people in part one of the story and in part two he introduces us to the European missionaries. When reading this novel it almost feels like you are part of the clan and then it is almost as if you are feeling the change yourself when you read part two and the missionaries come in. Part two shows the affect that the missionaries have on the members of the Ibo clan. The missionaries are able to take over and transform the once Ibo tribe into a Christian one.

One example was when Oknonkwo’s oldest son, Nwoye, converted to Christianity which was the white man’s religion. This was very upsetting to him because Nwoye was his oldest son and Okonkwo had great expectations for him. Things Fall Apart is a novel that serves as a reminder of what Nigeria once was. It shows how a society can deal with change, how change affects the individuals of that society, and how subtle a change can be; so much so that the people themselves are surprised at the change.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Things Fall Apart

Postcolonial Aspect in Things Fall Apart

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Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart is a great example of a literary work that intentionally situates a colonized people as the cultural norm while depicting the colonizing people as outsiders - or as "the other."

A key to understanding many of the 20th century critical and literary movements like postcolonialism is found in the notion of "the other." Essentially this term refers to groups that are perceived or portrayed as being outside of a cultural norm in a given discourse (that discourse might be exemplified in literature or political speech). 

The concept of "the other" is central to the critique presented by critical schools that sought to counter-balance a widespread cultural perspective in the arts that was seen to favor Western white males over other demographics. Simply put, postcolonialism suggests that there are a number of negative effects that stem from an unchallenged bias in favor of a single (economically dominant) group.

"As more and different people began to assert their own rights to explore their heritage and express their identities, critics began to expose the ideological underpinnings of the literary canon and how those underpinnings served one group of people while excluding another" (eNotes). 

Presuming that the white male perspective is the only normal perspective, postcolonialism suggests, leads to a dangerously skewed worldview wherein morality is presumed to be "owned" by the dominant group. 

In novels like Things Fall Apart the colonizing group participates in this presumption, assuming that the changes they bring to the tribe are good almost by default. The beliefs and values of the white colonizers are "good" in their eyes because they represent the values of the normative group. 

What happens when we see the world through a different lens? What happens when we see the Igbo as the normative group? 

"Although the novel is narrated in the third person, the sympathetic point of view is located within the Igbo culture, and the reader gradually comes to accept this perspective as natural" (eNotes).

When the moral norms are situated within the colonized group (the Igbo), the presumptions of right and righteousness of the colonizers is challenged. The actions of the colonizers cannot be automatically validated simply by virtue of the fact that they have guns and money. By depicting the colonizing whites as "the other," Achebe's novel enacts the challenge raised by postcolonialism against a worldview wherein one demographic stands as a universal norm.

Morality is not "owned" by the colonizers in Achebe's novel. The Igbo have customs and cultural mores that define their lives and their moral sensibilities. It is the Igbo's point of view that stands as the norm in the novel. The colonists are clearly identified as "the other" as we see in this late passage in the novel. 

Here the District Commissioner asks Obierika why the tribe does not take down Okonkwo's body after he has killed himself.

“Why can’t you take him down yourselves?” he asked.

“It is against our custom,” said one of the men. “It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen. His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it. That is why we ask your people to bring him down, because you are strangers.”

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