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Chinua Achebe's main concern in "Things Fall Apart" is to portray the effect white men have on traditional Ibo society. Discuss how effectively this has been achieved throughout the novel.

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Introduction

Word count: 1782 words James Gilmore English Literature Chinua Achebe's main concern in "Things Fall Apart" is to portray the effect white men have on traditional Ibo society. Discuss how effectively this has been achieved throughout the novel. In Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe tries to dispel the myth of savage African tribal culture. He does this by creating a complex and sympathetic portrait of a traditional village culture in Africa. Achebe is trying not only to inform the outside world about Ibo cultural traditions, but also to remind his own people of their past and to assert that it had contained much value. All too many Africans ( such as the Christian converts in the second half of the novel) were ready to accept the European judgment that Africa had no history or culture worth considering. Achebe fiercely resents the stereotype of Africa as an undifferentiated "primitive" land, the "heart of darkness," as Conrad calls it. Throughout the novel he shows how African cultures vary among themselves and how they change over time. He shows the reader a well established civilized society with it's own customs and beliefs. One of Achebe's main goals throughout the novel is to show how the colonizing white men erode and destroy a civilization. This post colonialist novel is written through the eyes of the people being colonized. ...read more.

Middle

Achebe uses the first fourteen chapters in much of the same way, he makes points like the above and leaves the reader to make comparisons which effectively challenge the colonist society. He also uses these chapters to explain and define the Ibo culture. This may seem irrelevant to the actual theme of the novel however this could not be further from the truth. This first part of the novel is used by Achebe to show that the Ibo culture may be very different but is still extremely civilized and if left alone would have been more than capable of surviving. He illustrates this through countless examples mainly through the life of Okonkwo using Okonkwo to air personal views and as an extreme. The personal use of Okonkwo allows Achebe to use a descriptive style of impersonal commentary, which allows the reader to gain a real feel of what life was like in Umuofia. This understanding within the reader helps create sympathy during the second part of the book and helps reinforce how the white men destroyed a civilization. This is the reason behind the detailed insight into Ibo culture. It is also interesting to note in chapter nineteen how the Ibo can welcome back an erring member once he has paid for his crime. In many cultures Okonkwo would be treated as an outcast, but this culture has ways of accommodating such a person without destroying him, and in fact encouraging him to give of his best. ...read more.

Conclusion

Achebe is highlighting yet again that in some respects the Ibo culture is purer and more civilized. After this incident it is clear to foresee the end of the novel and what happens to Okonkwo. He ends the novel as a martyr. On the other hand, depending on the reader, he could also be seen as a casualty of evolution. During the novel Achebe does his best to show the destruction of a civilization. He spends a large proportion of the novel establishing the civilization to create the feeling and sympathy within the reader. He uses emotion to sway the reader into feeling that the white men destroy a pure and natural civilisation. He does this very effectively as shown during this essay and creates sympathy. However I cannot but help feel that the novel could also be interpreted as a fiction of the evolution of tribal culture. This is emphasized by the fact that both sides commit crimes towards one another. It is true to say that the white men disturbed and invaded the Africans for reasons of greed that are completely unjustified. However the story is only told through the eyes of a strong rooted Ibo idealist (Okonkwo) whose views are in places somewhat extreme. Achebe successfully gives a good account of colonialisation and it's casualties and through this effectively portays the influence the white men had on traditional Ibo society. ...read more.

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