A Not-So Careul Rant on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Chiedozie Ude

Well, straight to my rant. I’ll drop something more detailed whenever my spirit tells me to.

Things Fall Apart is seen as a prototype book that aptly portrays the lives of Africans before the coming of the colonial masters and even during the colonial era. Therefore, many critics regard it as a historical fiction.

Achebe, masterfully, tells the African story from an African perspective. Before this book was written, we had so many stereotypic works about Africa that were written by Europeans. These works described Africa as a savage place that housed lawless black people. A typical example of one of such books is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Because of these European depictions of Africa, it became important for us Africans to tell our own story; and in my opinion, Achebe did that through Things Fall Apart.

This story narrates the saga of Okonkwo, the protagonist. Okonkwo typifies a traditional African man who believes in toxic masculinity. No wonder he loathes his father and everything his father epitomises because his father is his foil. This theme of masculinity is further reinforced in the way Okonkwo treats Nwoye. Sadly, this treatment of Nwoye was to force Nwoye to accept the Christian missionaries. Also, it is owing to the fact that Okonkwo hated anything feminine that made him kill Ikemefuna.

Okonkwo, despite being a flawed character, has some admirable qualities. He is hardworking and prosperous. He symbolises the indigenous African resilient spirit; the spirit that helps us thrive under hardship. According to the narrative, the odds were against Okonkwo, but he still found a way to succeed. Thus, he also deserves our admiration. Therefore, we can say that he represents the prosperous nature of Africa before the coming of the colonial masters.

The book also covers a lot of traditional Igbo practices such as the New Yam Festival, the Masquerade Event, and the Wrestling Event. With these events, Achebe seeks to show the richness of the Igbo culture as against the erroneous belief that Africans only practiced barbaric cultures.

Also important to talk about is the genre of the novel. This book falls under historical tragedy. The tragedy perspective is totally valid because it show how the coming of the whites completely destroyed our way of life. Of course, for things to fall apart, there has to be a cataclysmic event. In this case, the destructive event is colonialism. To simply put it, Achebe aims to tell the story deculturisation of Africa by Europe. He does this by narrative the story of his tragic-hero, Okonkwo, who despite his zeal to do what he feels is right, possesses several flaws that are Illuminated by several factors — modernization, colonialism, fear, tradition, to name a few. These flaws ultimately lead to his downfall. By extension, the flaws symbolically represent the flaws in the traditional African society that made it possible for the colonial masters to conquer and enslave Africans. Surely, the decision of the district commissioner to write the story of the life of Okonkwo in a single paragraph helped to strengthen the argument that this book is a tragedy.

So, in terms of form and content, Things Fall Apart deserves to be celebrated. It simply presents the lives of Africans before and during colonialism. Let me stop the rant here.

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