Things Fall Apart Essay
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In 1995 a movie came out about a young girl named Pocahontas whose tribe is evaded by a group of British settlers who were set to sail to what at the time was called the “New World. ” The two cultures, one being Pocahontas’s tribe and the other being the British settlers, clash in beliefs and an uprising occurs when the British attempt to take over the native tribe. Similar to Pocahontas and her tribe, the Igbo tribe in Chinua Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart, face the issue of colonization by the British.
Though the Igbo tribe seemed to have complex laid out way of living that could have potentially lead them to achieving the “Golden Society”, their inability to economically and spiritually provide for all of their tribes members leads to the demise of the tribe’s way of life. In the beginning of the novel, it appeares that the tribe has laid out cultural beliefs and ways of dealing with conflict that comes up in their society.
Like any thriving society they have core values one of which is exemplified in the common belief that they “were not to go to war unless its case was clear and just and was accepted by its Oracle- the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. ”(12) The Oracle of the Hills and Caves symbolizes the leadership that was clearly evident in their society. Overtime they had accumulated the belief that Agbala who was the Oracle of the Hills was the one to call the shots and for the time being this theory was able to effectively run their tribe.
Not only did the tribe have strong leadership but they also had ways of dealing with issues if they did come up. They had nine Egwugwu that heard the cases and it was “common knowledge when and where the ceremony would take place” (87). These nine Egwugwu had various similarities to the jury led by a foreman or a judge, which is very similar to the Western traditional judicial system. The fact that the Igbo tribe was able to create their own version of the Western judicial system exemplifies the advanced society they already had in place before the missionaries came in.
Overtime it becomes evident that the British are able to provide advantages that the Umuofian culture lack, which ultimately allows room for the missionaries to slowly implement their culture on the people, taking away that of the tribes. When the missionaries came in they “troded softly on the clans faith… learning a good deal about the religion of the clan” (180). By slowly implementing their force the tribe did not see them as a threat to their society and they therefore let them into their lives. However this backfired against the tribe, as the British were able to slowly seek into all aspects of their lives.
After establishing the church the first converts were mostly the kid of people that were called efulefu, worthless, empty men” (143). The missionaries were able to convert those with low status in the clan first because they promised to fill a void in the lives of these individuals- a void in which the Igbo tribe was unable to fill. This was one of the many weaknesses that fell upon the tribe because although this “worthless men” didn’t appear to make much of a difference in the tribes daily life they were the basis of the society and the tribe became unable to control them as they became prodigies of the Christian missionaries.
The idea of christianism spread to more who found serenity in its preaching’s. One of those converts was Okonkwos oldest some Nwoye who felt that Christianity “ answered the question of the twins crying in the bush and the question of Ikemefuna who was killed. He felt a relief as the hymn poured into his parched soul” (pg 147). Again the Igbo tribe had a gap in their religious traditions that lead to confusion for Nwoye. Since Nwoye, along with many others were able to find the solution to their issues in the Western Christian based religion it implored them to seek more of the Christians spiritual advice.
This began pulling apart the tribe even as they became divided among one another creating internal conflict, which gave the British the ability to divide and conquer. As the tribal culture continues to fall the missionaries are able to exhibit more force and eventually completely take over all aspects of the Igbo society. Not only were the white men attracting the tribal members with their religion “but also a trading store and for the first time palm- oil and kernel became things of great price and much money flowed into Umuofia (178)”.
In the beginning of the story yams are the cultures prized possession and showed status and wealth. However the white men were able to bring real wealth to the tribe and they became able to sell palm oil and kernel, no longer making a living off of their yams. Though the white men appear to be helping the tribe by offering these trading opportunities they are actually undermining the clans self-sufficiency that it once had. Along with their market “the white men had also brought a government. The court messengers of this government guarded the prison, which was full of men who had offended against the white mans law” (pg. 74). Tribe members were being put in jail for not following the white mans law, proving that their rulings had become supreme in ruling. The fact that the white men were able to take over the Igbo tribes standing government reveals the weakness in the roots of the tribe itself- their government was unable to stand up to another force. This is further exemplified when “six men were locked up, [and] the court messengers went into Umofia to tell the people that their leaders would not be released unless they paid a fine of two hundred and fifty bags of cowries” (195).
The white leaders were able to put the tribes “leaders” into jail displaying irony, as true leaders cannot be put into jail by some higher force. This continues to display the perpetual growth in power that the British are able to exert because they are now the true leaders of the society, not the Igbo tribes original leaders. In the end of the story of Pocahontas, she ends up falling in love with one of the British settlers named John Smith. She is able to prevent war from occurring between her tribe and the British leading to a compromise and allowing Pocahontas and John Smith to get married.
However, the fait of the Igbo tribe in Umofia is not as pleasant in the end because the two groups are not able to peacefully live beside one another. As the Igbo tribe attempts to create the prefect society they fail to acknowledge that they are not providing sufficiently for all members of their clan. This leads to the downfall of the tribe as it gives the British missionaries a place to insert their beliefs, which then slowly spread slowing tearing the tribes’ core beliefs.