In the final paragraph of the book Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe seems to be saying that not all things that are written about his culture are exactly right. He is demonstrating that actions and events can be very much misinterpreted. The character of the commissioner serves as a direct example of how ignorant and lackadaisical some of these people who wrote about these events actually were. The commissioner is very inconsiderate and knows nothing of the culture or the man that he plans on writing about in an ethnography that he is working on. Achebe writes an entire book on Okonkwo and I think that he is saying that if this were a European account of Okonkwo there would be a much different analysis of events.
I find the proposed title of the commissioner’s work to be very interesting. I find it rather ironic that the word “pacification” is involved in the title. The commissioner seems to think that he knows a lot about pacifying the “natives” but in reality it seems to me that he is the main cause for most of their recent problems. This just goes to show exactly the extent of the commissioner’s misunderstanding of the culture of Okonkwo’s people.
Another word in the title that strikes me as being very out of place is the word “primitive”. I feel that if the commissioner were to take some time and actually get his hands dirty so that he could fully understand the culture he would find it to be pretty complex. I think that Achebe was trying to get this point across when he used this word in the commissioner’s title. Most people who have read this book and learned about the way of life for Okonkwo and his village would never use the word primitive to describe them. They have many ceremonies and rituals that are highly diverse. Their way of life is far from primitive.
There is much evidence of the commissioner’s ignorance within the novel but the one indication that most directly stands out to me is when the commissioner was having a thought and it was, “One of the most infuriating habits of these people was their love of superfluous words”. (206) I think that this frustrated him only because he had difficulty understanding their language structure. The natives have a very pleasing and vivid language. It seems that it is just too much for the commissioner to comprehend so he decides to belittle it and call it infuriating.
Overall I think that the final paragraph of this novel is written to show how differently two cultures can perceive the same events. Achebe makes it seem like the Europeans will treat Okonkwo’s life and eventual death with very little sensitivity. The title of the commissioner’s work definitely expresses to the reader that he does not understand the people he is studying and that he is planning to write more about himself and his efforts to pacify the primitive tribes than he plans on writing about the ways of the tribes that he is “studying” so thoroughly.
Courtney from Study Moose
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