Sunday, July 26, 2009

Post Colonialism in Things Fall Apart

Post colonialism deals with cultural identity in colonized societies and the ways in which writers articulate that identity. Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is a narrative that follows the life of an Igbo tribe at the time when the wave of colonization washed over Africa. The story tells of a man named Okonkwo who had always dreamed of being well known and respected throughout his village and neighboring villages since he was a child. He didn’t want to end up a failure like his father and he worked tirelessly until he achieved his goal. However, although he was able to reach his goal at an early age, his life began to “fall apart” when Okonkwo's tragic flaw, the fact that he is terrified of looking weak like his father, takes over. As a result, he behaves hastily, bringing trouble and sorrow upon himself and his family.
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers. And our clan can no longer act like one. He had put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” This quote shows how Okonkwo is doomed to lose the traditions he cherishes as his society slowly falls apart. He is opposed to change and he desperately tried to hold onto the traditional values and practices of his society. He does so in the midst of an alien European invasion which ultimately results in the disintegration of this traditional African society.
Achebe takes the reader through the daily lives of the Ibo people in part one of the story and in part two he introduces us to the European missionaries. When reading this novel it almost feels like you are part of the clan and then it is almost as if you are feeling the change yourself when you read part two and the missionaries come in. Part two shows the affect that the missionaries have on the members of the Ibo clan. The missionaries are able to take over and transform the once Ibo tribe into a Christian one. One example was when Oknonkwo’s oldest son, Nwoye, converted to Christianity which was the white man’s religion. This was very upsetting to him because Nwoye was his oldest son and Okonkwo had great expectations for him.
Things Fall Apart is a novel that serves as a reminder of what Nigeria once was. It shows how a society can deal with change, how change affects the individuals of that society, and how subtle a change can be; so much so that the people themselves are surprised at the change.


  1. Interesting, if a bit more about the novel than the theory--it ends up reading like more summary than discussion of how the book fits into these discussions. But that is also almost inevitable--one might not need a postcolonial lens to read this book, because it's right on the surface of the work.