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“Things Fall Apart”

Updated May 16, 2022
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“Things Fall Apart” essay

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Inside the complex oral culture of the Igbo, elaborate storytelling is a cherished art form and a fundamental social device. Children learn their families’ history through their moms’ fireside stories, and clan members see mutual qualities through stories stressed again and again at tribe gatherings. For example, the tale about the Snake Lizard and his mom (Chapter 9) is an exercise about how a shortage of comprehension or information could have severe consequences. The Snake Lizard did not comprehend that vegetables contracted when cooked, and this insufficiency of knowledge prompted him of killing both his mom and himself. Nevertheless, stories tie the Igbo individuals as a network, however in the hands of others, outsiders, stories and proverbs are the exact things that destroy the clan and its beliefs.

In Things Fall Apart, the noteworthiness of network and connection is underscored through various proverbs. Okonkwo’s uncle Uchendu said that family is more valuable than money and it is connection that isolates people from creatures. He emphasizes his point with a proverb: ― “An animal rubs its itching flank against a tree, a man asks his kinsman to scratch him” (Chapter 19). Uchendu celebrates family in a very similar way as the Christians celebrate brotherhood, by proclaiming that every person in the family must help each other out. He believes that the support a family gives one another the defining characteristic of humanity. Hence why, without family or respect for your family, you might as well be an animal. The association of one person to another or the connection between the individual and his/her community is along these lines communicated. Once more, the unity of the community is given even in this proverb with a notice: ― “If one finger brought oil it soiled the others” (Chapter 13). Since a single droplet of oil may soil the entire proximity – or community in this case- with its pollution, Achebe shows that it is not only in words but also in actions that Ibos follow these lessons. The fact that people are not superior to their community is demonstrated when Okonkwo is seriously dismissed for breaking the Week of Peace and is expelled from Umuofia for murdering a clansman, as these sorts of actions put the entire community in grave threat i.e. the anger of Ani, the Earth goddess. Faith in the goddess, Ani was in this way a successful technique to guarantee knowledge and wisdom in the community. Despite the fact that Ibos set collective welfare and community sentiment above all, they gave extreme significance to a man’s individual achievements and accomplishments. This is featured through various sayings: ―”if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings” (Chapter 1),―”a man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness” (Chapter 3), ―”the lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did” (Chapter 3) , ―”when a man says yes his chi says yes also” (Chapter 4). Okonkwo said yes very strongly, so his chi agreed, and so forth. The proverb about chi underlines the way that ―”among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father” (Chapter 1). This proverb implies the criticalness of dedication, will power and perseverance to prevail throughout life. At the end of the day, the proverb appears to valorize individual effort for progress. Achebe illustrates these proverbs through the character of Okonkwo who prevails in life by dint of his devotion and determination in life.

To further add onto that, while people’s individual achievements are vital parts of Ibo life and culture, Ibos likewise maintain the standards of tolerance and adaptability. The versatility of Ibo culture is proposed by the proverb: ―”Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching” (Chapter 3). Interdependence, social harmony and equality appear to be recommended by the saying: ―”Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other, let his wing break” (Chapter 3). The symbolistic approach utilized in this proverb is to explain that amongst the weaker and stronger individuals- Described as the kite and the eagle, respectively-, one should treat others equally, if not, let bad luck befall them. When Enoch, a changed over Christian, carried out the wrongdoing of unmasking an egwugwu out in the open, all the masked egwugwu of Umuofia gathered in the marketplace. In the wake of wrecking Enoch’s compound, they moved towards the Church keeping in mind the end goal to annihilate it as they thought it to be the best way to pacify the soul of the clan. Before destroying the Church, an egwugwu exhibits the feeling of uniformity and democracy proposed by the proverb about the kite and the eagle when he says to Mr. Smith, a Christian preacher: -”You can stay with us if you like our ways. You can worship your own god. It is good that a man should worship the god and the spirits of his fathers. Go back to your house so that you may not be hurt” (Chapter 22). Achebe evidently demonstrates that these individuals who have survived through learning and adapting to fly without perching, will certainly be left with no place to perch as the colonial government takes over. Accordingly, these proverbs don’t merely improve the magnificence of the language, but they also influence the readers to comprehend the value of the culture that was broken during process of colonialism.

In addition to the proverbs, for the Igbo, the storytellers that pull you in and the narratives that resonate for you show your values. Nwoye, for instance, likes to listen to his mother’s stories instead of his father’s, separating him from all of the other men at Igbo. Furthermore, Nwoye’s cherished connection for the Christians’ songs and basic stories force him to dismiss his own particular clan and change his religion , which was one of the first occurrences of the clan’s deterioration. Nwoye is departed far from the culture of Igbo and toward Christianity by the influencing and attractive nature of the missionaries’ tales and songs, which speak to him much more effectively than the tales he grew up with. By choosing new stories to enable strong faith, Nwoye as a result picks another society to belong to. The deterioration of the community can be followed to the way that the Igbo envision the white individuals as negligible ‘fairy-tales’. Rather than appreciating accounts of the Europeans’ approach as factual reports, the news of their own inescapable colonization strikes the Igbo as a marvelous story. As the tribe’s older folks of Mbanta present, one claims that, though they heard ‘ ‘stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas,’ no one thought the stories were true’ (Chapter 15). Uchendu, Okonkwo’s thoughtful uncle, reacts, ”There is no story that is not true.’ ‘ The Igbo tell stories to order their reality and to credit meaning to specific occasions. But the tale of the white individuals isn’t a story they have woven, whose meanings they can control. The vast majority of the Igbo individuals can’t incorporate the fantastical story of the Europeans into their worldview since it lies so far outside their frame of reference. However, by neglecting to value Uchendu’s philosophy that each story contains some truth, the Igbo fail to understand that their power to compose their own stories —in essence, to control their own particular destinies—has turned out to be threatened by the colonizers, which led to things falling apart.

Finally, the last defeat of the Igbo people is proclaimed by another story—an anecdote about them, however one that is described by an outcast. At the end of the novel, the Commissioner concludes that he will write his personal narrative of the Igbo. In any case, he proclaims that he should be ‘firm in leaving out superfluous details’. There is no space for sly, Igbo-like talk in his story of success. The narrative the Commissioner imagines is one that would make for ‘interesting reading,’ that is, a written rather than a vocal story, which entertains rather than displays cultures and values. The Commissioner’s writing sounds the deathblow for the Igbo culture, its dismissal of the Igbo’s prized oral narrative and rhetoric symbolizing the European conquering of Africa and resulting annihilation of its traditions. The Commissioner’s choice to end up an author mirrors Achebe’s ambiguous relationship to the events and culture he portrays in the novel.

With “Things Fall Apart”, through glorious amounts of proverbs, stories, and outcasts, Chinua Achebe straddles the two opposite methods of narration he describes inside the plot, utilizing both the looping and repetitive style of the oral culture of Igbo as well as the written English of the Europeans. Similar to the Commissioner’s choice to write the Igbo story displays the finish of that story, Chinua Achebe’s “Westernized”-Igbo history connotes the edge of things falling apart.

“Things Fall Apart” essay

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“Things Fall Apart”. (2022, May 16). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/things-fall-apart/

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