Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a story about an Ibo living in Africa during the era of European imperialism. Achebe may use this time period to first describe the traditional Ibo culture and then discuss how white European missionaries influenced Ibo society. The book debunks the popular misconception that Africans were wild and godless prior to colonialism.
The sections on Achebe’s genealogy, Biafra politics, and the Ibo religion in this book are all fascinating. For example, the complex Ibo religion is compared to a sophisticated social order in Umuofia and a complex religious system. In comparing Europe and Africa politically, religiously, and economically during the period of imperialism, I will make use of what I have learned about both continents.
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During the period of imperialism, Europe was controlled by a group of extremely powerful and rival monarchs. A king and queen ruled over their nations in these monarchies, with absolute power. Umuofia had a democratic system of government without a single ruler, as well as a complex method for individuals to rise to political prominence through economic success. It seems amusing that when white missionaries arrived they preached equality before God to the indigenous peoples, but yet they had supreme rulers in their own countries and an extremely unjust social caste system.
Contrary to popular belief, before Christianity arrived the Africans had a highly complicated religion. Everyone in the community was very devout, even following their religious leaders when they were instructed to kill their own children who were supposed to bring bad luck. To us, this appears cruel, but for them, it made sense because of their agricultural-based tribal society’s needs. There were numerous gods for specific natural and life occurrences such as rain and fertility. Overall, the religion was suited to an agrarian-based tribal society.
I believe that the Ibo religion was full of superstition and odd ceremonies, which made its followers more susceptible to Christian teachings. The Europeans erected their church on land that was supposed to be cursed, but when nothing bad happened to them a few individuals began to doubt their existing beliefs. Overall, I think the major reason for the village’s and so many others’ conversions to Christianity was due primarily to social and economic forces rather than a change in religious convictions as a result of being “enlightened” by Christians.
The economy of Umuofia and the surrounding villages was quite developed. Yams were the primary agricultural product, and Cowry shells served as the primary currency. In addition, there was a large market where all of the tribes could exchange products with one another. This system of towns surrounded by centralized markets is very comparable to Western Europe during that time, and it was completely adapted for the environment.
Most individuals’ fortunes and social position were determined by their parents’ wealth and status in society across Europe. Even though his father was continually in debt and was treated with little respect by the community, Okonkwo was able to create a big and successful farm and family despite being from a modest background. In many ways, Umuofia’s economy was more comparable to the free-market system in the United States than it was to the primarily noble-controlled economy of Europe.
The book’s major argument, as I see it, was that pre-colonial African had a vibrant culture and economy. In comparing the ways in which Ibo and European countries were different and similar before colonialism, I’ve shown how they were comparable. The religious richness of Ibo society, the complexity of political structures, or economic vitality was not superior to that of the Europeans. With their military dominance and zealot-like religious fanaticism, the Europeans were able to achieve their aim of conquest and domination.
Patrick Nnoromele, a professor at Makerere University in Uganda, examines Okonkwo’s Death in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and concludes that it was not caused by his tragic flaw: the lifelong dread of seeming like his effeminate and dishonorable father. According to Igbo ideals, however, Nnoromele argues that Okonkwo’s suicide was not a sign of weakness or defeat, but rather an act of bravery. The critic describes a hero in the Igbo cultural belief system as someone who has “great courage and strength to work against destabilizing forces of his community, someone who affects, in a particular way, the destinies of others by pursuing his own” (Nnoromele 270).
Nnoromele explains: “His own experiences in his unflinching desire to become a hero: this was the ultimate expression of the complex effects of his own experiences in his steadfast determination to be a hero” (Nnoromele 280). However, Okonkwo’s withdrawal from his obligation to his village and clan was misinterpreted as an unavoidable consequence of his quest for glory. Rather than daring the imperial powers that were encroaching Umuofia, Okonkwo was so obsessed with achieving the title of a hero that he would rather kill himself than confront them.
But, in so doing, he put his personal interests above the needs of his clan, which was a far greater egotism than bravery by Igbo standards. Suicide is prohibited in the Igbo culture and those who kill themselves are not permitted to be touched or properly buried. So not only did Okonkwo commit suicide because of his weakness, but he also violated important cultural norms and beliefs.
Women are often considered to be the less powerful and more vulnerable of the two genders. As a result, women’s roles in literature are frequently diminished and subordinated. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, women are repressed by an entrenched social structure. Women suffer significant losses in this book, but they also have tremendous power under certain circumstances.
In Things Fall Apart, Achebe depicts changing perceptions about women’s place in society. On the surface, the women in Things Fall Apart appear to be a subjugated group with little power, and this is true to some extent. However, this depiction of Igbo women turns out to be too simple and limiting.
Ikemefuna, Okonkwo’s surrogate son, is murdered. In a fuming rage, Okonkwo admonishes himself not to “become like a shivering old woman,” which he considers the worst insult (65). Okonkwo also has negative feelings for his oldest son Nwoye, who he feels exhibits feminine characteristics and thus behaves like a woman.
The stories that men told were about bravery and war, while the tales that women told, which he considered “foolish,” were for “weak-minded women and children” (54). The tales that males told were intended to be heard by boys rather than fairy tales that women recounted. “So Okonkwo encouraged the boys to sit with him in his obi, and he told them stories of the land,” Nwoye explains. Make him a man by feigning interest in what your father tells you.
Okonkwo has three wives in Things Fall Apart, and they serve as the main female characters. His three wives play various roles of worth in the home just as they do in the book. Ekwefi, Okonkwo’s second wife, appears to be rather unimportant from a patriarchal standpoint, but when examined again, she is revealed to be a fountain of wisdom, love, and indomitable independence.
Okonkwo’s connection to his Igbo culture in Things Fall Apart was one of pure existence. Okonkwo demonstrated the most ideal examples of Igbo manhood and qualities. Okonkwo strives to be robust, masculine, productive, respected, and wealthy. This was Okonkwo’s internal battle to differentiate himself from his father as much as possible, who he thought was weak, effeminate, lazy, shameful, disgraceful, and poor.
Okonkwo accepts these beliefs in order to achieve great social and financial success. He marries three women and has a large number of children. A farm with a barn full of yams, his obi, and huts for each wife is among his possessions. He was also a highly regarded clan member. Okonkwo’s downfall came about as the white man moved in among his people because of his unwillingness, obstinacy, and aggressive temperament to alter from his Umuofia roots.
The novel opens with a statement about Okonkwo’s fame, which runs throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His renown was founded on verified personal accomplishments. He was a young man of eighteen who had brought glory to his village by defeating Amalinze the Cat, known as the great wrestler for seven years who was undefeated from Umuofia to Mbaino.
Oba Okonkwo was a guilt-free, pleasure-loving despot who ruled his household with an iron fist, but with a good heart. Oba Okonkwo strove to be distinct from his father, Unoka, in the end inadvertently provided proof of his own son’s desire to be different from him.
In chapter three, Okonkwo is depicted as a hardworking farmer who gains the confidence of his people by demonstrating his diligence. Okonkwo received 1200 seed yams from a farmer and friend, but due to a severe drought and extensive downpours, only a third of his crop was attained. His father tried to comfort him, but Okonkwo replied, “Because I survived that year,’ he always said I shall survive anything.’ He attributed it to his unwavering determination.’ This indicated Okonkwo’s personality: he was always a man of action in Iguedo.
Discussing the roles of women in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart necessitates a thorough and unbiased reading of the book. This may be difficult for someone from a Western country since, at first sight, the women in Things Fall Apart appear to be an oppressed group with little voice in Igbo society, which is true to some extent.
The theme of gender, however, when examined thoroughly appears that the Igbo women have several significant roles in the Igbo culture as described in the novel. The varied responsibilities women have in Igbo society and why they are portrayed that way will be investigated based on their position as caregivers and instructors.
Women play a significant role in the Igbo religion, as men are not allowed to heal the sick. Women take on the position of a priestess in the book. “The priestess in those days was a woman called Chika. She was full of the power of her god, and she was greatly feared,” according to a quote from the novel. The current priestess is Chielo.
When Okonkwo’s daughter, Ezinma, is unwell, he goes to Chielo and begs her to return in the morning because Ezinma is now asleep. This was the first and last time that we saw Okonkwo plead with someone in the novel. Chielo did not simply demand that Okonkwo hand over Ezinma; she also threatened him. The fact that a woman can assume the position of priestess and spiritual leader demonstrates how highly regarded women are in the Igbo culture.
The earth goddess, Ani, is another example of how women have played an important role in the Igbo religion. She is said to play a “more vital role in the people’s lives than any other god.” It appears unlikely that a society where women are inferior to men would portray the most powerful deity as a woman. The yam harvest is also aided by Ani.
The weekly day of peace before the harvest is “necessary for all clan members to participate in,” according to a quote from the book. “To honor their great goddess the earth, without whose blessing their crops will not grow,” says the novel. In Things Fall Apart, yams are frequently used as a symbol of manhood, therefore it is remarkable that men rely on a female being’s blessing.
Furthermore, they are regarded as the clan’s foundation and its people, according to Uchida. They can always be trusted, and they are the guardians of the Igbo clan. These are undoubtedly positions with a level of power and significance. Women have also played an important part in the process of producing yams, just like Ani, the earth goddess.
The women are said to have weeded the farm three times during the life of the yams at different periods, without being early or late. It is remarkable that the men rely on the women to carry out such a vital function because if it is done incorrectly, the yam harvest will fail.
Finally, women play an important role as educators for their children. The primary method by which Igbo mother educate their youngsters is through storytelling. As seen in the book, “Low voices, broken now and then by song, reached Okonkwo from his wives’ huts as each woman and her children related folk tales. ” It is through the act of storytelling that Igbo kids acquire concepts about humanity’s condition, learn Igbo creation myths such as the birds and tortoise tale, and perfect oral expression skills by learning how to retell these stories themselves.
The art of conversation is highly valued among the Igbo, and proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten, as stated in the novel. The facilitation of education is a key element of children’s capacity to function properly within the Igbo culture, as observed by Evidently, Igbo women play a significant role in promoting education, which is essential for their children’s development. To summarize, at first sight, it appears that women have a less important position in Igbo society than men do, however after closer examination this perspective may be incorrect.
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