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Nigeria, an African country of a befuddling history, is the chosen setting for Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. In the midst of the novel, readers find themselves audiences for a story of cultural collision. Many characters recoiled in sheer disgust and fright at the sudden outburst of British rule, while others embraced it wholeheartedly, yearning for release from their own ridiculous traditions. Achebe has outshone himself by establishing the proper sense of cultural rejection and one of appreciation, through the palpable description of numerous character personalities.
In the far off village of Umoufia, lived a man of past grievances, a man of massive build and an insatiable hunger for revenge. This man was familiarly known as Okonkwo, the village’s most horrid and terrible chap, haunted by the ghost of his past. His father, Unoka, had paved a way of shame and poverty for his son, which Okonkwo never ceased to attempt to erase. Caught in his most unnatural fascination, Okonkwo refused to accept the presence of foreigners in his land. Simply forgetting all traditions and falling victim to the British enforced regime revolted Okonkwo, and he merely brushed the entire notion off as one would do to an irksome fly.
Abandoning trying to regain his son, Nwoye, who had clasped at the new religion with such force, Okonkwo directed his attention to his many other children. After having beaten Nwoye severely and thrown him out of his own house in front of Nwoye’s brothers, he gathered his remaining children all about him and lectured them strictly. “you have all seen the great abomination of your brother. Now he is no longer my son or your brother. I will only have a son who is a man. If any of you prefers to be a woman, let him follow Nwoye now”. It is more than obvious that Okonkwo desired nothing more than to grow his boys into that opposite of his awful father. He most certainly believed it to be the very peak of femininity if any of his children were to convert to the British faith.
Absolutely ripped with vehemence and overwhelmed with the longing of a free Umoufian people, Okonkwo trudged through the village detesting all freshly converted Nigerian Christians, because to him “To abandon the gods of one’s father and go about with a lot of effeminate men was the very depth of abomination”. He revolted during clan meetings, muttering about having to “plan his own revenge and fight alone” since none of the others seem so forceful as to rage against the foreigners.
Events unfolded hurriedly and at long last, the people of Umoufia appear to have finally joined ranks with that of the white man. “He has put a knife on things that held us together … and we have fallen apart” Okonkwo viewed the entire separation of a once close clan with utter resentment, and befouled the name of the foreigners. Though it was impeccably clear that none of the Umoufians were willing to rush into a war of blame, Okonkwo was nevertheless determined to cause some sort of disturbance. His body was found suspended in midair by a hanging-rope, after he had so mercilessly killed a court messenger.
This harsh and irrevocable means of trying seamlessly to oppose an occurring change, was not shared by all of Okonkwo’s fellow villagers. Quite the contrary, many were more than happy to welcome the foreigners with open arms and a desire to flee the suffocating, governing rule of Umoufia. “There were many men and women in Umofia who did not feel as strongly as Okonkwo”. Instead of arming themselves against the much needed development, they simply watched markets quickly rise into becoming major trading business. “For the first time palm-oil and kernel became things of great importance.” They were happy with whatever the foreigners brought forth, including those blossoming churches and peculiar traditions of actually allowing twins a chance in life.
As aforementioned above, Nwoye was one of those many whom chose to accept the Christian faith and rule. He had long been troubled with all those persistent questions that kept creeping upon him in the night, as he listened to the far cries of twins left out in the forest or as he gazed at the look of a murderous father. “vague and persistent question that had haunted his young soul-the question of the twins crying in the bush and the killing of Ikemefuna” Nwoye had found his salvation in the Christian religion, all questions were clearly answered, murder was forbidden and each and every life was granted a brilliant prospect of living properly.
Another example would be the much cared-for-man, Obierika, who thought better of the Umoufian rules. He once stood, looking up at a palm tree, watching young men struggle with the harvest, and began to wonder. Why were title-bearing men excluded from the task of climbing to the very top of a palm tree? “I don’t know how we got that law” After the foreigners took place in Umoufia, Obierika pondered more and more about all those ridiculous rules and outrages traditions of the Umoufian tribe.
Had it been fair to so ruthlessly throw Okonkwo out of the tribe “for an offence he had committed inadvertently?” They would punish manslaughter so relentlessly, but they would never even dare touch those who murder for the will of the Gods. Obierika honestly endeavoured to try and find the answers “But although he thought for a long time he found no answer. He was merely led into greater complexities”. Consequently, he preferred the explained regulations of the Christian religion, much like that of Nwoye.
Okonkwo’s response was of an extreme, he stood resolutely near all that of which his life was based upon and refused to even slightly budge. Nwoye, however, bounded off to the other side, never looking back toward what he had so willingly left behind. Obierika flows into the very middle of both: he was most unquestionably conscious of what the foreigners were doing, which was slowly reverting the Nigerians onto the Christian side, but he was not completely opposing this change, knowing that it might cause a bit of prosperity to flourish and perhaps a small spread of knowledge among the Umoufians. Chinua Achebe was definitely successful in showing all those contrasting responses, starting with the extremes then gradually showing what should be in the very middle.
Things Fall Apart is an aspiring novel, written only to show how even the tightest of clans and bonds may eventually unfurl and separate, merging into that of the worldly norm.