Albert Chinualomugu Achebe (1930-2013) is popularly known as Chinua Achebe is a universally acknowledged writer who invented African literature. He is a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor and a critic. He is best known for first novel and magnum opus Things Fall Apart which was first published in 1958 was reprinted in 1962 as his first novel in the African writer series. Nigerian writer portrays a stunning moment in African history; the imposition of colonial rule with sympathy and dignity, focusing on the complexity and integrity of precolonial Igbo life, and the turmoil resulting from British rule. CITATION Chi58 l 1033 (Achebe, Things Fall Apart, 1958). His novel was a response to Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of darkness and Joyce Cary’s novel which portrayed Nigeria and the native as savage, barbaric, uncivilized and superficial characters. Things Fall Apart projects the tragic fall of Okonkwo, the protagonist and the Igbo Culture as a whole. The the novel is set in a place called Umuofia, a cluster of nine villages. Umuofia was a powerful clan, skilled in war and with a great population, proud traditions and advanced social institutions until the white emissaries intervened. Before the white emissaries actually forced into the Igbo land the society was an autonomous society ruled by different head separated by dense forest but possess a same basic cultural and political identity where the natives speak different dialects of common Igbo language, thus there was a realization of common Igbo identity. Hence, Achebe in the novel tries to portray the natives from a different perspectives through by focusing on the effects of colonialism on social, political and cultural traditions of Igbo society.
Colonialism struck the Igbo society with the introduction of a new faith which dismantled the common faith of the Igbo people. Before the white missionaries ventured into the Igbo land, the people had their common faith. They believed in Chukwu as their supreme god who created life and other god as the messenger from the supreme god and the natives were usually superstitious. They believed in the existence of god, birth, death, and reincarnation. However with the introduction of the new faith of the Whites, the order of the Igbo society and the firmness of their belief in their supreme god begins to fade: “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 has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” CITATION Chi10 p 166 l 1033 (Achebe, 2010, p. 166). The land was torn between the two faiths. The new religion gave comfort to certain unprivileged natives and benefitted the people who were pressed down by the harsh Igbo rules which led to the division between the clans and the family. It attracted Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye. He witnesses the killing of Ikemufuna and the discarding of twin child in the evil forest to perish as an unreasonable belief of Igbo. Thus Nwoye’s turning into a Christian convert distorted the family bond and father son relationship in particular. The first women convert Nneka joined the new religion in order to raise her twin child which was considered abnormal in her traditional clan. Next the Osu or the outcast joined as a convert because they are out casted and ignored because they possessed different beliefs. They were treated harshly in the society and was not given a proper burial. Thus the new religion answered to their problems and this group of people found solace in it. On the other hand the order of the Igbo society gets shaken with the appearance of the Whites and their religion. Okonkwo, looked upon by his people is unable to adapt the change brought by colonialism. CITATION ElD10 l 1033 (El-Dessousy, 2010). He tries to uphold the the traditional Igbo life, however he falls apart with the arrival of the whites eventually bringing down the Igbo society
Correspondingly, colonialism disrupted the political system of the Igbos. Prior to British colonization, the Igbo people as depicted in Things Fall Apart lived in a patriarchal collective political system. There was no centralized government yet it was a democratic kind of government in which decisions were not made by a chief or by any individual but rather by a council of male elders. The council consist of five members namely the village elders, religious heads, executives, judicial heads and chiefs whose main responsibility is to wage wars or civil strife. Religious leaders were also made upon to settle debates reflecting the cultural focus of the Igbo people. There was also a secret society of masked figure representing an ancestral spirit (egwugwu) where upon solving the dispute in their community the judges appear masked and their identity remains unrevealed. “A little is known about this society because the man and women who join them takes oath of secrecy very seriously” CITATION Chi58 l 1033 (Achebe, Things Fall Apart, 1958). A women’s association usually deals with farming, trading, weaving and embroidery. Women controlled certain spheres of the community like man do after other spheres. The arrival of the British slowly began to destroy the harmonious political system of the Igbo society. The British government intervened in the tribal disputes rather than allowing the natives to settle their disputes in a traditional manner. The frustration caused by these shifts in power is illustrated by the struggle of the protagonist Okonkwo. Okonkwo in the novel has been presented as the tribal character who mistakenly killed his own clansmen which resulted in his own exile from Umoufia to Mbanta due to strict norms. On the other hand there was a tribal war going on simultaneously with the European colonialism resulting in the victory of the colonizers. These people changed everything and they created enemies within the tribes by converting village members into Christians. Finally when Okonkwo returns he sees the Umuofia in different shade and gets upsets. He tries to change the fate of his land, as he was the only sign of courage in his clan. However he finds himself alone and gets distressed hence he chooses death over humiliation.
Furthermore colonialism affected the overall cultural aspect of the Igbo land and its people. Achebe gave a detailed illustrations of Igbo’s rich culture in order to give a clear picture of the scenes before and after colonization. The land and its people had their traditions in keeping their culture together with them by observing the Week of Peace in which no work is done and a highly developed folktales, mythology such as the tale of the mosquito and the ear and the tale of tortoise and the birds. They have their own customs of carrying a goat skins to upon and their own horns to drink wine. The host welcomes the visitor with cola nuts, put in a wooden disc. They valued cola in their culture as they consider it as the source of life. before breaking the cola, it is shown to the guest and they thank the host for it. They consider a prestige and an honour to break cola. CITATION Moh l 1033 (Jajja, Ghani, & Baloch, 2014). The marriage consists of complex rituals and customs. The elders decide the issues of the marriage and the bride price. After the bride departures for her in-laws the whole village contributes and arranges a feast with music and dances. The whole village contributes and participates in the feast for the guests. The feast is accompanied by music, singing and dancing. Funerals are portrayed with great detail with a different burial codes depending upon their titles. However, with colonialism the culture that they dearly held on started breaking. The missionaries forced the Igbo to break with their strong past and not pass on their stories to the next generation. CITATION Lam13 l 1033 (Kenalemang, 2013). The Whites encouraged to fight each other in the name of religion however, the Igbo tradition forbade violence against any clan member. Distressed with the torn Umuofia, Okonkwo embraced death over humiliation.
To conclude, colonialism affected the social, political and the cultural aspects of the Igbo land and its people. The Whites forced themselves upon the natives and created disputes among the people with the use of religion. The natives torn between the two faith turns against each other and creates huge turmoil in the land thus bringing violence over the stable land. The political system that the Igbos has been maintain gets disrupted after the Whites intervenes and creates a government of their own and turned natives against each other. Colonialism hampered the culture of the land as the Whites forced themselves upon the natives and encouraged not to pass on the stories of their past to the future generations. Thus colonialism affected the land by hindering the growth of their society, their political systems and their culture in nutshell.
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Achebe, C. (2010). Things Fall Apart. India: Penguin Random House UK.
El-Dessousy, M. F. (2010, September ). The cultuarl impact upon humna struggle for social
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Jajja, M. A., Ghani, M., ; Baloch, I. (2014). Things fall apart: Chinua Achebe writes back to the
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Kenalemang, L. M. (2013). Things fall apart: An analysis of pre and post-colonial igbo society.