How is the Reader Drawn into Achebe's Fictional World?

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How is the Reader Drawn into Achebe’s Fictional World?

The book is written in the past tense, as though it were a story being related to someone. The opening of Chapter three maintains this tradition. The persona who narrates this story is relatively objective in his/her account of the occurrences in Umofia and they seem to have access to the characters’ innermost thoughts. In this style of narration, the persona is often referred to as the ‘voice of God’. By choosing to write the story this way, Achebe enables the reader to sympathize with the characters in a way that would not be possible had it been written otherwise.

        Customs unique to Igbo culture are interwoven with features that are personal to the characters. Aspects of Igbo lifestyle that would seem strange to those unacquainted with their culture are written with nonchalance (that is, the persona is not awed when recounting parts of their daily life), which is part of the book’s allure. In my opinion, this (at the time it was published) unconventional approach is partly why this book was so successful, as it lends a sense of the exotic to the book.

 There are facets of the book that are universal in their appeal because certain problems are common regardless of ethnicity. These make it easier for the reader to relate to the story. An example of this is at the end of chapter 3, when the reader learns of the motivation behind Okonkwo’s incessant hard work. It is a combination of disgrace and fear that drives him; such repugnance towards one’s parentage is a sentiment that is not limited to a particular culture.

At the same time, these traits are combined with characteristics unfamiliar to those who do not encounter Igbo culture on a regular basis. This causes the reader to connect to the experience, while simultaneously dazzling him with the unfamiliar nature of the Igbo world. The reader is in touch with the character, but is also curious to know about their traditions. The incident in the extract, when Unoka consults the Oracle’s priestess, is a paradigm of this because most people can relate to his need for help as well as the fear of the supernatural, which he faces.

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The process that Unoka undergoes, of consulting the Oracle, is very revealing of Igbo culture. It reflects how they beheld the elusive nature of the supernatural and their fearful respect towards it (Unoka has to crawl on his belly to get there, thereby practically supplicating before it). The glow of the logs lends the expression on the priestess’ face malevolence. This mirrors their fear of fire. Achebe writes that they “..light up vaguely the dark figure of the priestess” . The words “vaguely” and “dark” convey how, according to their perceptions, indefinable the spiritual world is. The priestess is a ...

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