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Teaching ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe Essay

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Imperialism in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, Imperialism refers to the extension of one country’s authority or control over another territory. Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” covers extensively the impact of colonization on Igbo society. The arrival of the British Missionaries in the 19th century caused great destruction of the Igbo lifestyle and culture and resulted in the collapse of the Igbo religion and caused social disorder among the Igbo people.

The Igbo culture bestowed with much richness was destructed by the British. The European missionaries and colonial administration questioned and subdued the traditional lifestyle and culture of the Igbo people from within. The colonial regime saw the crush of their value system and the conversion of a group of people from the society who became followers of the white missionaries. The converts decided to abandon the Igbo religion, their traditional lifestyle, and their people and chose to follow the white man and his ways.

The Europeans cause the collapse of the Igbo religion as they converted the village people to Christianity; creating social disorder and creating disintegration among the tribes. The Igbo people believed in the existence of a Supreme Being, “Chukwu”, and they offered sacrifices to him. Therefore, they questioned the missionaries, “Which is this god of yours?” “The goddess of earth, the god of the sky, Amadiora of the thunderbolt, or what?” (Achebe, 132). When the Missionaries realized, it was difficult to convert the mind of the Igbo people, they built schools and hospitals to divert the people. Imperialism is a visceral experience, it dilutes cultures and expunges religions. This crusading act will continue to happen down the timeline of humanity if we do not accept the differences and cultures of people. An Igbo man named Okonkwo through his encounters and differences between his tribal men and foreign threats to his tribal people.

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The book explores the ruinous effects and tyrannical actions of European Imperialists on African civilizations. Through the use of allusions and metaphors, the purpose of showcasing the destructiveness of European Imperialism on African culture and religion is conveyed in this literary work. The arrival of the Europeans jeopardizes the native religion and its practices because of its unfamiliarity with the African people and the aggressiveness with which Christianity is being implemented. The use of Biblical allusions can also be paralleled to that Europeans are bringing Christianity with them into Africa. These actions of the Europeans consecrate the use of Biblical allusions not only to help as a reference for readers but to further enhance the complexity of the story. Besides the use of Biblical allusions, Achebe uses metaphors extensively to further express his purpose in writing Things Fall Apart. The Europeans have already taken a village and killed almost all inhabitants. Obierika compares the Europeans to “a great evil that has come upon their land” (140). The Europeans are perceived as being evil by the natives because they killed native people. It is not every day when something genuinely deserves to be called evil, but Achebe’s comparison is correct for the Europeans went into a foreign country just to convert and kill its citizens if they did not convert. Another example of Achebe’s use of metaphors comes when the missionaries are pushing the natives towards converting to Christianity. Achebe compares the spread of Christianity and the “converts to the excrement of the clan, and that the new faith was a mad dog that had come to eat it up” (143). The natives that converted are compared to excrement by their former tribal people because they have abandoned their tradition. The arrival and customs brought by the Europeans have had a negative impact on the African culture and brought more destruction than unity. The Europeans tried to use religion as a tool for uniting Africans and Europeans, but it had the opposite effect that Achebe was trying to express throughout Things fall Apart. In allusions and metaphors, Achebe was successful in conveying his purpose of displaying the ruinous nature of European Imperialism on African culture and religion.

The effects of missionaries come with the notion of delivering the Africans from superstition and worship of gods and goddesses. The book depicts resistance and collaboration experienced during the clash of the two cultures and religions. The missionaries create two factions within the Igbo society the resistors and collaborators. Africans’ point of action against the new culture and religion was not unanimous and straightforward. The Alabama village continued in its routine after killing a white individual. Terrible repercussions followed the Europeans came and demolished the town.

The superiority of Western culture over the Igbo religion and culture rests on perception and attitude. Norms of Western culture are affected by the government, religion Christianity, and history. The same principles and pillars govern the African culture of the Igbo community. Both communities do not share the same principles in culture, history, and tradition. The difference in culture and tradition shows diversification rather than superiority and racism. The advent of foreign culture in an already existing society leads to either harmony through cohesion and understanding or discord and strife between the two cultures. The new religion that was forced on the Igbo society included an ideology that all men were created equal, yet the missionaries perceived them as uncivilized and non-human. “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 over 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.” (Achebe, 176). These events perfectly define the destruction of the Igbo society and the disruptiveness of the European missionaries and imperialists, perfectly displaying the ruinous nature of European Imperialism on African culture and religion. The actions of the European imperialists and colonial powers reflected their motivations and sense of superiority that affected these methods of control on the African populations on whom they shamelessly imposed themselves.

Works Cited

  1. Allen, C. (2018). Things Fall Apart Precis: Igbo Tradition and Colonization.
  2. Chinua, A. (1958). Things fall apart. Ch. Achebe, 1-117.
  3. Jweid, A. N. A. A. (2016). The fall of national identity in Chinua Achebe’s Things Falls Apart. Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities, 24(1).
  4. Rashid, A. A. (2019). Re-Reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: A Postcolonial Perspective.
  5. 'The White Man's Bryden.' International Academy: Login to the Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.
  6. Capt. F. D. Lugard, 'The Extension of British Influence (and Trade) in Africa'
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