In Things Fall Apart, a novel written by Chinua Achebe, the character of Okonkwo is a valuable warrior of the Umuofia clan, a lower Nigerian tribe that is part of an association of nine villages in Africa. Okonkwo is troubled by the wrongdoings of his father, Unoka, due to him leaving many village debts unsettled. Unoka was considered to be a cowardly and prodigal person, who later died and was shamed by the public. As a result of all this, Okonkwo becomes a clansman, warrior, farmer, and family provider. Okonkwo is the father of his son Nwoye, who he finds to be lazy. Okonkwo is concerned that Nwoye will fail just like his father did. Additionally, since Okonkwo hated how gentle his father was towards other people, he decides to be controlling of his wives and children, and insensitive as well. As the years go by, Okonkwo becomes a very hostile person, becoming aggravated over the slightest annoyance.
One day, the clan settles an argument with a nearby village on the sacrificing of a 15-year-old boy named Ikemefuna, who lives with Okonkwo’s family for three years. During the time that Ikemefuna lived with Okonkwo’s family, Okonkwo eventually begins to treat Ikemefuna respectfully, and Ikemefuna soon begins to call Okonkwo ”father.” After the three years pass, an elder from the tribe, Ezeudu, tells Okonkwo that Ikemefuna had to be killed, and suggested to not be a part of his sacrifice since Ikemefuna was so fond of him. Okonkwo decides to disregard this advice however, out of fear of being seen as weak or female-like and kills Ikemefuna himself the following day.
As a consequence of murdering an innocent boy by accident, the village orders to banish Okonkwo for seven years to his mother’s homeland, Mbanta. In Mbanta, Okonkwo learns about white missionaries(the British), whose arrival marked the end of the Igbo people. They bring over Christianity and convert Igbo outcasts to their religion. As time passes, more and more Igbo people convert. The Igbo soon attempt to talk to the white missionaries, but several Christians incarcerate Igbo leaders for many days until they would earn a decent amount of money. Wanting to get revenge for the oppression of the people, the Igbo form a war council, Okonkwo being an active member of it. Okonkwo strongly suggests that hostile action is taken. This idea, however, is interrupted when a court messenger from the missionaries tells them to stop the meeting entirely. Furious at this suggestion, Okonkwo slaughters him. Once Okonkwo realized that his clan would not go to war with the missionaries, Okonkwo commits suicide by hanging himself. The District Commissioner eventually finds Okonkwo dangling from a tree, and Obierika, a member of the war council, asks for him and the other men to take down his body. Since it is an absolute disgrace for a man to take his own life away, his corpse was considered evil and only strangers could approach and feel it.
The District Commissioner finally agrees to bury Okonkwo, and as he leaves, he thinks about what Okonkwo did and decides to discuss this in a new book that he was writing. At the beginning, he thinks of writing an entire chapter with its focus being on Okonkwo, but he then decides to cut it short by discussing him in one paragraph. Things Fall Apart concludes with the reveal of the title of the Commissioner’s book: The Pacification of the Lower Niger.( (SparkNotes Editors. (2002). SparkNote on Things Fall Apart. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/things/).Moreover, Things Fall Apart was a revolutionary form of work. It addresses the issue of European imperialism in Africa, as well as a term commonly referred to as the ”Scramble for Africa.”
The events in Things Fall Apart take place towards the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Even though the British did not occupy most of Nigeria until 1904, they had a strong presence in Africa, they were a major buyer of slaves in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The British wanted to control Nigeria for more than just slave trade, however. They were competing with other Europeans for control of West Africa’s natural wealth. At the Berlin conference of 1884-1885( a meeting that was set to regulate the rivalries between European countries) the British claimed Nigeria to be their territory. They bought palm oil, peanuts, rubber, cotton, and other products from the Nigerians. These trade in products made some Nigerian traders wealthy, but that did not stop Britain from defining the collection of diverse ethnic groups of Nigeria and declared it a colony under the British Empire. The British moved into Nigeria with a combination of government control, religious mission, and economic incentive. In northern Africa, the British did not rule directly, but rather with the support of Muslim leaders, who collected taxes and administered a government for the British. In southern Africa, however, communities were not under one authority, so the British intervened and controlled the local population by force(Chua, John, and Suzanne Pavlos. CliffsNotes on Things Fall Apart. 29 Dec 2017
The Scramble for Africa was believed to have originated for strategic reasons and was after the Congress of Vienna Britain got ahold of the Cape Colony in South Africa, which was an important port on the sea route to India. Additionally, it is believed that an important factor in the ”Scramble for Africa” was attaining territory, which is made apparent by King Leopold of Belgium, and his acquiring of the Congo Basin. King Leopold was ready to pay for a colony that was bigger than his own country. Belgium wasn’t the only country that extended its claims, however, as Portugal extended their claims to large parts of Angola and Mozambique..(Burchill, S. (n.d.). The Open Door Web Site: History: Colonisation:The ‘Scramble for Africa’. Retrieved from http://www.saburchill.com/history/chapters/empires/0048.html)
By the 1900s much of Africa had been conquered by European powers- Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. After conquering African decentralized and centralized states, the European powers aimed to create colonial state systems. The colonial states were authoritarian, bureaucratic systems. Since these colonial states were imposed and maintained by force, without permission of the people(or the more formal term being ”consent of the governed”), the colonial states did not have the effective legitimacy of normal governments. Also, while they were all authoritarian, bureaucratic state systems, their administration varied from place to place. In Nigeria, the Gold Coast in West Africa, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika in East Africa, were places in which Britain organized their colonies at the central, provincial, and regional or district levels. There was usually a governor or governor-general in the colonial capital who governed with an executive and legislative council, one which consists of appointed local and foreign members.The technological factor was expressed in the radical disparity between the technologies of warfare deployed by the contending European and African forces. African forces in general fought with bows, arrows, spears, swords, old rifles, and cavalries; the European forces of the Industrial Revolution, fought with more deadly firearms, machines guns, new rifles, and artillery guns. As a result, in direct encounters European forces often won the day. But as the length of some resistance struggles were more than enough, Africans put up the best resistance with the resources they had. In addition, at the provincial and district levels the British established the system of local administration popularly known as indirect rule. This system operated in alliance with pre-existing political leaderships and institutions. The theory and practice of indirect rule is commonly associated with Lord Lugard, who was first the British high commissioner for northern Nigeria and later governor-general of Nigeria. In the Hausa /Fulani emirates of northern Nigeria he found that they had an established and functional administrative system. Lugard adapted it to his ends. It was cheap and convenient. Despite attempts to portray the use of indirect rule as an expression of British superiority, it was nothing like that. It was a practical choice based partly on using existing functional institutions. The choice was also partly based on Britain’s unwillingness to provide the resources required to administer its vast empire. Instead, it developed a view that the colonized people would pay for their colonial domination. Therefore, the choice of indirect rule.(The Colonization of Africa. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africanaage/essay-colonization-of-africa.html)
All in all, Things Fall Apart is a novel with historical significance, one which highlights the dilemma of European powers in Africa, as well as their mission to radicalize what was already established there. It shows not only that things do indeed fall apart for Okonkwo, but also that everybody else as a community is affected as well.
(SparkNotes Editors. (2002). SparkNote on Things Fall Apart. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/things/)
(Chua, John, and Suzanne Pavlos. CliffsNotes on Things Fall Apart. 29 Dec 2017
(Burchill, S. (n.d.). The Open Door Web Site : History : Colonisation : The ‘Scramble for Africa’. Retrieved from http://www.saburchill.com/history/chapters/empires/0048.html).
The Colonization of Africa. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africanaage/essay-colonization-of-africa.html