Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Essay
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Summary: Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe explores the coming of the white man and its effects on the culture of the people of Umuofia. The coming of the white man brought about culture conflict which affects the people of Umuofia’s religion, their agriculture, their judicial system and their social life.
The coming of the white man affects the people of Umuofia’s religion and cause culture conflict. The people of umuofia have many gods. Agbala- the oracle of the Hills and Caves.
“People come from far and near to consult it” . People consult it when they have dispute with their neighbors and also, they can discover what their future held for them from this god. Chi is also a personal god which judge people by the work of their hands. They also believed that if they say yes that their chi also says yes. The people of Umuofia are very obedient to their gods. They don’t go to war without consulting their gods. When a daughter of Umuofia was killed in Mbaino, they didn’t just decide to go for war or do things on their own; they consulted their gods and they were asked to demand s lad and a virgin from the people of Mbaino. However, if the people of Umuofia had not obeyed their gods, and had gone to war that they were told not to go, they would be defeated.
Even when Okonkwo broke the week of peace by beating his youngest wife, he made the necessary sacrifice as was also demanded by their god. Okonkwo also shot Ezeudu’s son accidentally, he had to go on an exile for seven years which was a crime against the earth goddess. If they had disobeyed the law by allowing Okonkwo to stay in the village, the people believe that all the clan will be punished and their leaders said “if one finger brought oil it soiled the others” . More so, the people of Umuofia don’t desecrate their gods. Their egwugwu who gives justice is feared by the women and their children. Whenever the egwugwu is approaching, the women and children always shout and run away . They also don’t unmask the masquerade. The masquerade’s identity is not known by anyone who doesn’t belong to the clan’s secret cult. The religion of the people of Umuofia is totally different from the white man’s religion.
This situation caused a culture conflict between the white man and the people of Umuofia. The white man wants to impose his religion on the people of Umuofia. The white man believes in one God which he believes to have made heaven and earth. Also said his God made the entire world and the Umuofia’s gods. He wanted the people of Umuofia to abandon their gods and follow his own religion. The white men belittle the people of Umuofia’s gods by saying different things about their gods. The white man says that the people of Umuofia’s god are gods of deceit who tell them to kill their fellow and destroy innocent children. The white man says that their gods are not alive and cannot do them harm and that they are made of piece of wood and stone.
Hearing and seeing all these from the white man, the people of Umuofia were not happy with the white man’s religion which was a reason for a culture conflict. The economy of the people of Umuofia was out in conflict with the white man’s economy. Agriculture is the source of living in Umuofia. People’s riches are based on the number of barns they have. Peolple really work hard on their farm to make harvest. Both children and wives help on the farm to plant yams. The people of Umuofia have a very good scene of agriculture. For instance, during the planting season, Okonkwo planted his yam from the smouldering earth by making rings of thick sisal leaves around them. This yam is so precious to them that they celebrate a Fest of the New Year which was held every year before the harvest began to honor the earth goddess and the ancestral spirits of the clan. On the other hand, the white man was more interested in making money.
They made the farming worthless because their convert can use money to buy the yams. Children no longer farm, they goes to school which was built by the white man. “The white man has also brought a government and a system of running it” . They also brought their own trade. These causes a culture conflict because the Umuofia’s economic value was disvalued. The white man set his own economy above their cash crop; thereby reducing them to poverty. Rich people were reduced to poor, everything they work very hard for will be bought with money. The coming of the white man also affects the form of justice in Umuofia. In Umuofia, everybody knows the law. The egwugwu is the highest and final court in Umuofia. They don’t have lawyers and they don’t tell liars when reporting their cases before the egwugwu.
There judgment is based on the true evidence. This can be seen when Uzowulu and Mgbafo came before the egwugwu to settle their dispute. Each of them stands at different direction to state their cases. “The egwugwu went to consult together in their house” . The egwugwu settle their dispute and they were all satified with it. Although Uzowulu knows the law about beating his wife, he will not listen to any other decision except from the egwugwu. However, the white man’s form of justice is different, only the interpreters and the whites knows the rules. They alos had built a court where the District Commissioner judge cases in ignorance. The white man had court messengers who brought men to him for trial. “The court messengers guard the prison, which was full of men who had offended against the white man’s laws” .
The court messengers beat the prisoners and made them to work every morning clearing the government compound and fetching wood for the white commissioner and the court messengers. Aneto and Oduche were fighting a land, when Aneto killed Oduche, the white man judge this case by hanging Aneto to death and putting his family in the prison. One may think that the people of Umuofia’s social life were not affected but it was due to the culture conflict which was caused by the white man. The people of Umuofia form the in an hierarchy standard, that is, the father is at the top, followed by their wives, and children. Children fear their parents. Also, their warriors were also feared and respected. For instance, Okonkwo defeated a wrestler at the age of eighteen and was placed at a higher level. Although, he was still young, everyone respected him. “At an early age, Okonkwo had achieved fame as the greatest wrestler in all the land.”
The outcasts or osu are the people they dedicate to a god, they will not marry nor be married by the free-born. They live in a special area of the village, close to the Great Shrine. They are the bottom of ladder children, and they were not to mix with the free-born in any way. On the other hand, the social life of the white man is totally different from that of the people of Umuofia which also lead to a culture conflict. The outcast or osu which are at the lower level in the village are now very important people. They made the rich poor and the poor rich. The clans were very rich but after the coming of the white man, they were poor and the outcast that was nobody was now rich. The white man allowed them to mix with free-born. Mr Kiaga told the church member that wanted to chase the outcast from the church that “they are all children of God and they must receive these their brother” .
He also shaved the osu’s long and tangled hair before they were fully member of the church. White man also destroy the hierarchy of the people of Umuofia, Umoye who feared his father before the coming of the white man, disrespected his father after joining the white man’s religion. He no longer talk or visit his father . “He told Mr. Kiaga that he had decided to go to Umuofia, where the white missionary had set up a school to teach young Christians to read and write. Their interpreters who the people of Umuofia know as weak people and not very strong, come from the village were they fear the warriors of Umuofia. Those are the people that are now interpreting words to them.
“The white spoke through an interpreter who was an Ibo man though his dialect was different and harsh to the ears of Mbanta” . The white man humiliated the leaders of Umuodia. When they put them in prison, their hair was shaved and their hands were handcuffed. “At night the messenger came in to taunt them and to knock their shaved heads together” . The coming of the white man cause culture conflict in the people of Umuofia’s religion, their agriculture, their system of justice and their social life. The white man is ethnocentric and there was also language and non-understanding of culture barrier.