Sunday, January 18, 2009

First Blog: Things Fall Apart

We have been discussing this idea of homelands in class as well as the cultures attributed to them. There is a definite culture established in Things Fall Apart; however, the stability of this very culture is not unwavering. In fact, the reading reflects what happens to a culture when it is confronted with external influences. Achebe creates a world which falls prey to colonialism and the reader then sees how strong, or how weak, the cultural ties that supposedly bind a people together truly are. When the Igbo are introduced to Anglo-Saxon culture and values, the people slowly begin to find themselves divided. The society which relies heavily on kinship and ancestral tradition becomes conflicted. The white man who brings a new monotheistic religion in Christianity as well as an Anglo-Saxon form of government challenges the fundamental components to the culture of the Igbo. At first, many villagers simply write-off these new ideas as well as the missionaries themselves; however, eventually the ways of the colonizers become threatening as they are able to convert more and more villagers. The story is heavily about the demise of a way of life and a way of thinking. Things literally begin to fall apart within the internal structure of Igbo culture. There is a moment in the text that highlights the feelings of many villagers, particularly the elders who are not as easily swayed: “But I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice. And what is the result? An abominable religion has settled among you. A man can now leave his father and his brothers. He can curse the gods of his fathers and his ancestors, like a hunter’s dog that suddenly goes mad and turns on his master. I fear for you; I fear for the clan” (167). This excerpt is a thank you to Okonkwo for bringing everyone together in order to give thanks for their kindness in the years of his exile in his motherland. An elder speaks these lines and I think that they reflect an overall tone established within the novel; a tone which is the result of the colonial influences. The imagery offered in comparing one to a rabid, mad dog who turns on his master is quite vivid and effective. Essentially, the elderly man is expressing his concern that the Igbo are turning their backs on their heritage and their culture. The white man’s religion and government that is being forced upon this culture seems then like a disease; a disease which alters the nature of the Igbo and causes them to challenge and, in some cases, reject their beliefs. Another moment that gives insight into these concepts comes later when Enoch kills an ancestral spirit. The cries of the Mother of the Spirits are heard by all and it is an agonizing wail. Her cries reflect the state of the tribe as well: “It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming—its own death” (187). The effect of the colonial powers caused a rift in the tribal society and left it permanently severed and damaged. The Igbo culture will never be the same again. The time of excess stress like that which Freud talks about in times of war left Okonkwo with nowhere to go. He commits suicide so as to escape the devastation that has fallen upon his culture, his people, his family, and his life. (Affigne)

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