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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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. An example of a contrasting post colonialist novel would be Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart Of Darkness” which is written through the eyes of the colonizer. This therefore creates a contrasting view point. I felt that the fact that I had read “The Heart Of Darkness” helped me achieve a deeper and much more accurate understanding of both novels, as I could view the situation from both view points.  

  Achebe immediately establishes his perspective from inside Umuofia (which is Ibo for "people of the forest") early on in the novel. The wider world consists of the group of nine related villages which comprise of Umuofia and certain other villages like Mbaino. The conflict between Umuofia and Mbaino in chapter two shows a fair and logical justice system. The conflict is resolved without any more deaths or violence. This shows that there is no need for the District Commissioner. The process of replacement, Mbaino giving a young virgin woman as a consolation to the murdered woman’s husband and taking away the son of the murderer and giving him to Umuofia seems very just. Achebe is subtly suggesting that this logical system of appeasement is more civilized than the white colonists’ theory “an eye for an eye” justice system. If the puishment was in the hands of the white men they would have simply hung the murderer. That would be the end of the matter. The victims would therefore get nothing back apart from the possible feeing of revenge.

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 The clan has a very defined and fair structure which allows any man who is hard working and deserving to prosper as far as he is willing to go regardless of his family background. Achebe states  “that a man was judged according to his worth not the worth of his father”. Achebe later reinforces this point with a strong metaphor.

“If a child washed his hands he could eat with kings”

With this point Achebe  effectively shows yet again that in some respects Ibo culture appears to be fairer than that of the white colonists. In England in the late ...

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