By Abba Musa Ibrahim
When Europeans came to Africa and said, You have no culture, no religion, no civilization, no history; Africa was bound sooner or later to reply by displaying her own accomplishments. To do this, her writers and intellectuals- stepped back into what you may call the purity before the coming of Europe. What they uncovered there they put into their books and poems, and this became known as their culture, their answer to Europe’s arrogance. – Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart (1958) is a text on colonialism by Achebe. As Ngugi asserts, “There is no writing in a vacuum”. Equally, Stanley Fish, Raymond William, Edward Said, and Homi K. Bhaba, among others, strongly believe that writing consciously or unconsciously reflects political, historical or social issues at the time of its birth.
In response to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Joyce Carry’s Mister Johnson, Achebe came up with Things Fall Apart to rectify the distorted image of Africa popularised by the Europeans. As he was quoted, “My role as a writer is to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexities of years of denigration and self-abasement”.
Things Fall Apart is recognized as one of the 100 novels ever written in history. It has also been translated into more than 50 different languages. Achebe gets the title of the text from W.B Yeats, an Irish poet, in his poem, “The Second Coming.”
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The Falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things Fall Apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
The text has 165 pages, twenty-five chapters, and three phases, each discussing a distinct matter. The first part talks about the culture, tradition, norms and values and political system of Igbo society. Meanwhile, the second part talks about the major character, Okonkwo’s exile to his mother’s kinsmen in Mbanta when he kills a boy during a funeral festival. Then, lastly, is the happenings that lead him to hang himself.
The first part of the text opens with Okonkwo, who gets renown by wiping the floor with Amalinze; his celebrity circulates far and wide. He’s also a man of action, industrious and works tirelessly to go contrary to his bone idle and workshy father. Ikemefuna is brought to Okonkwo’s household before his future is decided. Pronto, the boy, owns the love of Okonkwo.
We also glance at Okonkwo, who has four wives and children and run them with heavy hands because he wants them to shun being inactive. His strictness makes him break a week of peace by beating his wife in black and blue. He also cuts Ikemefuna down, which Ezeadu forewarns him, “That boy calls you father, do not bear a hand in his death” (P.45). He does this and takes the life of sixteen years inadvertently, which in their custom is exile for seven years.
Secondly, the second part opens in Mbaino, Okonkwo’s mother’s town, where he serves for seven years. He receives a helping hand from his boon companion, Obiereka, by looking after his remnants of farm and letting him know about the arrival of white men who wiped out Abame altogether, and oracles apprise them that;
“The strange man would break their
Clan spread destruction among them” (p.111)
He also accepts the worsened situation:
“… 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” (p.141)
Thirdly, the last part of the text is on Okonkwo’s return from Mbaino, where he loses his celebrity and social prestige. He finds out that white missionaries take everything up. They erect churches, courts, government and schools. He stands up against missionaries, fighting back his fame, social prestige and customs. But, drearily, he fails by not getting any co-operation from his clan, and this frustrates him to the core, and he takes his own life.
Abba Musa Ibrahim can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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