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Colonial Authors

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe's first novel, was published in 1958 in the middle of the Nigerian renaissance. This book tells the story of an Ibo village of the late 1800's and one of its great man, Okonkwo, who has achieved much in his life. He is described as a champion wrestler, a wealthy farmer, a husband to three wives, and a proprietor among his people, a member of the select egwugwu whose members imitate inherited spirits at tribal rituals. This book gives a vivid picture it of Ibo societal structure at the end of the nineteenth century.

The order of his life is disrupted, however, with the appearance of the white man in Africa and with the introduction of his religion. The conflict of the novel, which is associated with Okokwo, derives from the series of crushing blows which are demolished at traditional values by a foreign and more powerful culture. It causes in the end, the traditional society to fall apart as it could not resist superpower of white man and Okonkwo as many others in the village is unable to adapt to the changes that accompany colonialism. In the end, in frustration, he kills an African employed by the British, and then commits suicide, which is considered a sin against the tradition ( thus he is not keeping the tradition) to which he had long stuck.

Achebe manages to achieve a balance in imitating the tragic consequences of the clash of two cultures. In showing Ibo society before and after the coming of the white man the author avoids the temptation to portray the past as idealized and the present as dreadful and unsatisfactory. He is just showing what life was before and what cultural aspects were destroyed when colonial movement occupied the village. There are numerous issues discussed in this, and all other books of Chinua, those issues that personally affected author as an African. He was passionately depicted a genuine picture of the African environment along with its cultural past, its inherent mayhem and its colonial trauma, its stimulating independence period from the European Imperial powers. He also writes about uninspiring consequences of post independence era and the current chaos permeating African society. For instance his Things Fall Apart illustrates not only the society as it is but what causes it to fall apart and lose its former identity. While all of those revolutionary events were happening people still were born, but they were born into a complete chaos and could not figure out to which culture and way of life they belong anymore. The issue of being unable to find the adherence to neither western materialistic culture or to their native values and believes. Chinua has written a book No Longer at Ease about this pathetic situation and those people who have been born "between the époques".

This novel’s protagonist is the same man as in Things Fall Apart, a typical educated Nigerian young man, who first of all wanted to wash out Nigeria of its evils. He was a brilliant student whose parents earned some money to send him to England for further studies as it was the usual practice. Upon return he was supposed to bring honor and prosperity to their village. Obi, however, much to his frustration notices that Nigeria his loved country is no longer the "Nigeria of his dreams" and it has already moved toward corrupt practices such as bribe taking. From this point on, although Obi’s intentions were good, he fails to do any good for his village he becomes absorbed by the newly established order. The common battle of educated Africans of that time, who stood bewildered between acceptance and rejection, is evocatively portrayed in the torn character of Obi Okonkwo. He feels terrible after accepting his first bribe, but he was not able to fight the common practice. Obi was a child born somewhere "in between" and thus could not find for himself a reasonably balanced scale of values with the help of which he would have hold on to his honor and integrity of his people. In the modern Nigerian society, unlike in the tribal communities, the so called "sharing" procedure of any benefit took place only among the top people. Those get everything and those who are not high class are not cared for. Nowadays everyone’s goal is o get to the top and they freely use bribes to get what they want. This problem was not even an issue during tribal times, before the white man intrusion, today though it is the primarily source of anarchy and chaos.

Submitted by:

Jeff Stats

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