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Theme of Colonialism in 'Things Fall Apart': Critical Analysis Essay

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The title of the novel comes from W.B. Yeat's coming descriptor for the chaos that was made in the modern period through the collision between tradition and modern culture cause to a kind of cultural trauma because Nigerian people demand the recognition of their traditional culture. Achebe compared the poem to the situation of Igbo culture that transformed from their violent male tradition to the colonial powers in the 20th century. In Things Fall Apart, people criticized colonial powers who governed their state. They show their inner anxiety about losing their dignity during the colonial period.

The novel shows the Igbo values before the European colonial powers. entered the village: they have their own culture, values, and dignity. and their consolidation with other cultures. They were resisting the Western government and Christianity. Things Fall Apart described the Igbo land which was located in the Eastern region of Nigeria between (1850- 1900). the period that is just prior to the colonial time and after coming white men to Nigeria. Umuofia and Mbanta are the settings of the novel, the two main villages in a combination of the 'nine villages'. The fiction consists of three parts: the first and most important part is the description of Umuofia before the white men came. The second part displays Okonkwo's exile to Mbanta where his mother's village as a result of his sin does it against the earth goddess. It also describes the coming of the white man to the nine villages and how they initially established the Church, government, and trading system and gradually, exploited the traditional ways of tribal life. The third part portrays the struggle between change and tradition that has influenced the villagers than the death of the tribal system also the death of Okonkwo. (Killam 514) Immediately Achebe introduced the complex laws and customs of the Umuofian tribe and their tolerance of each other. The novel focus on Okonkwo who's the protagonist of the novel his character is revealed through fiction. He is the greatest warrior in the Umuofian clan and the villagers respected him for his braveness and brought honor to his village by achieving victory in a wrestling competition. While he resists the new political and religious system of the White men so, he didn't want to become a betrayed man and lose his social status. He was controlled under the laws and norms of traditional society.

Some complex laws and customs of Umuofian caused to create a number of outcasts and a number of villagers who convert to Christianity during the colonial period. As kill of Ikemefuna and the twin newborns have a great impact on Nwyoe who is Okonkwo's son which destroyed his inner side and causes him to convert to Christianity. The people of the village have been captured between two religions so, they tried to know which of them is better in order to adapt. Moreover, Achebe points out the appearance of European colonists and the unfaithfulness practicing of colonialism throughout the novel in three phases. The initial phase, is articulated when Okonkwo in his second year of exile his friend Obierika visits him and tells him about the white man's arrival to their clan. 'The elders consulted their Oracle and it told them that the strange man would break their clan and spread destruction among them And so they killed the white man and tied his iron horse to their sacred tree' (P.138). Obierika also said 'I forgot to tell you another thing which the Oracle said. It said that other white men were on their way. They were locusts.'(P.138 39). The second phase of imperialism was during the second visit of Obierika to Mbanta 'When nearly two years later Obierika paid another visit to his friend in exile the circumstances were less happy. The missionaries had come to Umuofia.: They had built their church there; won a handful of converts and were already sending evangelists to the surrounding towns and village' (P.143). The third phase is the occurrence of white government; they imposed their power in the villages and established their government but their judicial system in the villages lead to destruction rather than progress. The narrator comments fearfulness 'But stories were already gaining ground that the white man had not only brought a religion but also a government. It was said that they had built a place of judgment in Umuofia to protect the followers' religion' (P.155)

In Things Fall Apart, the main themes focus on the clash between two different cultures as a result of colonialism which causing to achieve the concept of multiculturalism. Achebe doesn't merely portray the Western culture but also the customs and laws of subcultures. Each village has its own laws and customs. As Umuofian clan takes Ikemfuna and a virgin girl instead of a murdered Umufian woman. Ikemefuna's culture disliked them. through bringing different folk tales which were exciting to villagers. Colonialism caused the reshaping of the African continent in terms of religion, ideology, economy, politics, and society, as Achebe, highlighted in his fiction. The writer portrays the locusts as a symbol of colonizers that descended upon the village that locust was a metaphor for the arrival of the European colonizers who will exploit the Igbo values and cut off the villagers from their own roots and culture. In fact, the villagers rejoice about the arrival of locusts because they are used as a resource for their food. In contrast, in Christianity locusts are the symbol of destruction and ruin so, Achebe choose it as a symbol of the coming imperialism that changed everything and convert the people to Christianity. Throughout the novel the phrase 'they settled' repeats as it is an allegorical phrase that the colonizer appeared suddenly though they became a harmful settler for changing the Igbo culture and took the benevolent interests of Africa.

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The writer explicitly uses the locusts again as it was attention for coming to the white man when Obieka's talked to Okonkwo that ' the Oracle. said that the other white man was on their way. They were locusts'. Achebe describes locusts that they are so heavy they break the branches of trees as a symbol that the Igbo culture and tradition break down by colonialism and white settlement. In his fictional world, he introduces the first European missionary who came to Abame village and presented a tragic event where the villagers killed the white man because their oracle told them that they would bring destruction to Abame. However, the villagers didn't understand anything about the white man and his religion. Here, Achebe highlights the customs and religion of his traditional culture who obeyed the orders of their oracle and they couldn't correlate with the Western culture because they are zealous to their culture and values. Thus, Achebe through the end of the novel displays the events that would happen as a result of colonialism that create a collision such as the Igbo culture couldn't endure the Western culture. Moreover, as the missionary first arrives in Mbanta, they look for a king (P.138).

But the villagers said that they don't have a king thus the colonizer didn't find anyone in the village to work with them so, imperialists established their own system by taking assistance from the government to set up their district commission and native court messengers. Moreover, those who are foreigners and live in Nigeria but they did not belong to Africa witnessed the bad treatment of imperialism thus they traveled and leave Nigeria. The novel indicates that the foreigners recognize the unfaithfulness of the district commission with the villagers. government imposes its power in Nigeria exploiting the opportunity of not having a governmental system, the villagers depend on the elders and worthy men of their clan. So, Igbo was unhappy with their new system, therefore, they have a democratic tribal system in which the elders in the village gathered together for making decisions about the problems that would happen in their village thus the clan elders ruled the village. Each man has been evaluated by his own value 'according to his worth' rather than 'to the worth of his father'. Although Achebe wants to describe their own people and system how they are tolerant of each other that merely Europeans saw them as a savage or uncivilized society. He thinks that his own culture and religion were much better than the Europeans who came to convert them. Such as, Uchendo talked to Oknokwo about the arrival of white men and he said 'What is good among one people is an abomination with others' (P.104). Here, Achebe exposure to imperialist power and displays their conversations when they confronted the colonized people. When the white man arrived, he criticizes the Igbo's customs and religion and said that their gods are not true at all, they worship false gods the gods of wood and stone and their customs are bad (P.135). But Igbo tradition was unlike Europeans, they believe that 'It is good that a man should worship the gods and spirits of his fathers' (P.139) therefore, they have to worship the gods of their ancestral even if they are not Igbo god. The writer described both religions of colonizers and colonized people as a result of colliding two diverse cultures. In European tradition, men fight against their brothers over religious issues however, Igbo tradition doesn't allow their people to kill each other, it is a crime against the earth goddess and they have to be punished. Further, the European holy wars proved that men struggle with each other over religion but in Igbo, it's an abomination to kill a member of the clan rather it's a problem between the man and the god means that their personal Gods decided for them (P.148). In Mbanta, the Christian missionary'

The central issues of Achebe's fiction were political and religious violence. He portrays through depending on characters that they are enthusiastic about their religion. In all of Achebe's novels, spiritual issues are obvious even, if he indirectly presented but he had connected to social conflict or political power. Incompatibility between the two cultures begins with the arrival of European imperialism and religion was the first issue to focus on in order to convert Igbo to Christianity. When the white man first arrived at Mbanta, he told the villagers that all of them have one god and belong to one god and all of them died and 'went before him for judgment. Also that he has been sent by god to tell them that your gods are false so it's better to leave your religion. He explains Christianity but he couldn't convince all of them, the villagers make a mockery and Okonkwo thought that he was a madman. Nevertheless, the young Nwoye had been attracted by the poetry of the new religion which is taughtThe central issues of Achebe's fiction were political and religious violence. He portrays through depending on characters that they are enthusiastic about their religion. In all of Achebe's novels, spiritual issues are obvious even, if he indirectly presented but he had connected to social conflict or political power. Incompatibility between the two cultures begins with the arrival of European imperialism and religion was the first issue to focus on in order to convert Igbo to Christianity. When the white man first arrived at Mbanta, he told the villagers that all of them have one god and belong to one god and all of them died and 'went before him for judgment. Also that he has been sent by god to tell them that your gods are false so it's better to leave your religion. He explains Christianity but he couldn't convince all of them, the villagers make a mockery and Okonkwo thought that he was a madman. Nevertheless, the young Nwoye had been attracted by the poetry of the new religion which is taught.

Igbo community identity is a result of the influence and the changes that they have brought them. The cultural and religious collision had a fond impact on the Igbo who suddenly had to find their way to assimilate into the new system and also according to the rules of imposed power they have to reshape their identity. They were caught between two worlds the English and the Africans who couldn't find their way to be absorbed into the Western system and culture. However, the colonial system throws out the old traditions and imposes their culture and religion over them thus the Igbo couldn't cut off their relations with their roots and old traditions. Moreover, it is difficult for Igbo to block their culture and religion suddenly. This is the whole issue that Okonkwo and Obi couldn't institute a way to deal with Western system which was replaced by the old Nigerian system. They confronted the colonizer's rules and they aren't able to keep work on within. The pressures that come from the cultural collision and the identity cause Okonkwo to commit suicide because whatever he believed in before was destroyed by a European power. However, Obi didn't kill himself but society stopped trusting him anymore. Besides that, he has lost his status in society and became a betrayer man. In his second novel, Achebe describes the reaction of the second generation against the Western target in Nigeria. In fact, many Africans flourish at that time by preserving some values of their old traditions. Gikandi has discussed that 'One of the key themes in this novel is Nigeria's search for a national idiom that might express its collective will' (Reading 81). It is difficult to obtain the idea of collective will throughout this dilemma however, it depends on the second colonized generation to determine how much of their values be maintained in the colonial and postcolonial environments. The second generation after colonization seems different from the first generation, they wanted to get things easily and have little religion although, they were not so zealous in their own culture. Even though Obi's generation returned back to their old traditions, they eat foods on their fingers as they claimed that it tastes better. However, they are not afraid as the first generation to call them uncivilized people. They adopted the traditions of Christianity so, the first chapter ends with Christianity's motion 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow' Then Obi's family and friends pressed their presents and money to him. According to Christianity's interpretation that these gifts have spiritual relations and bring goodness and blessing to him. However, These gifts foreshadow Obi's downfall. Western ideas could be easily accommodated into the African culture such as the ideas of 'gift giving', 'tipping', and money exchange so, the narrator discusses that it is difficult to make a distinction between gifts and bribery in the modern period.

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Theme of Colonialism in ‘Things Fall Apart’: Critical Analysis Essay. (2023, August 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/theme-of-colonialism-in-things-fall-apart-critical-analysis-essay/
“Theme of Colonialism in ‘Things Fall Apart’: Critical Analysis Essay.” Edubirdie, 29 Aug. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/theme-of-colonialism-in-things-fall-apart-critical-analysis-essay/
Theme of Colonialism in ‘Things Fall Apart’: Critical Analysis Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/theme-of-colonialism-in-things-fall-apart-critical-analysis-essay/> [Accessed 3 Mar. 2024].
Theme of Colonialism in ‘Things Fall Apart’: Critical Analysis Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Aug 29 [cited 2024 Mar 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/theme-of-colonialism-in-things-fall-apart-critical-analysis-essay/
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