Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Homeland Destruction

Iit is difficult not to question the value of justice within not only the small society presented in the text, but also in the world at large after reading Things Fall Apart. Throughout the novel Achebe shows injustice rotting in several corners. Women live without respect, men are purged of their emotion on account of appearing too weak or too “female,” strange and violent traditions are carried out against innocent people, and the greatest leader kills himself after realizing that the land he once knew will never be the same or live up to his expectations. It is clear that Achebe wants the reader to see the atrocities occurring in this homeland. Every chapter presents reasons why this place can never truly be home for many of its citizens. But what he leaves unclear is the exact reason for these injustices, and the overarching solution to replace violence with peace.

When Okonkwo flees to his motherland, to he is faced with his uncle, Uchendu, who states: “A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in h motherland.” The idea of the “Supreme Mother” is a reality Okonkwo has denied all along. He, who lost his mother early in life, never gave himself the chance to break down, and go back to his maker. He has denied himself of his own homeland, and by degrading his wives, denying their strength, and downplaying the wisdom that they have to give to their sons, Okonkwo is denying others of their homelands as well. This is the root of the injustice that Achebe displays throughout his novel—the degradation of women and the denial that their strength and reassurance is essential for anyone to feel at home. Okonkwo can never overcome his poor opinion of women, or anyone else inferior to him. He cannot accept the possibility of being weak, and this obsession drives him to take his own life.

As we are presented with Okonkwo’s death at the end of the novel, it is difficult to wonder who to place fault on. Did Okonkwo do this to himself? Or did the insensitivity of the missionaries and the absence of his homeland leave him no other choice? Achebe does not seem to place blame on anyone. His narration remains neutral, sticking to the emotions of the characters and the following the events as they unfold. Although the missionaries speak of faith and love their motives are insincere and their actions are insensitive toward the Igbo. Although they disrespect the violence within the culture, it is evident that their religion may be headed in that same direction, as their faith is based upon the hierarchy of God and God’s judgment of the people’s lives and actions. Achebe writes of the first times the missionaries spoke to the people, stating “He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment” (145). This ideal man, or God, is another opportunity to define people as inferior, and cover their days in fear. No matter what the ideals the missionaries have, their new institution manipulates the people, and claims a truth that they will never have access too.

The story of this culture seems speak to all societies, religions, and institutions. The leading figures throughout the novel claim power and glory that no human can possess, and therefore destroy their people and themselves. Uncertainty and vulnerability are not accepted. The weak obey the strong out of fear, and the strong fear an emotional side of themselves that they cannot avoid. Therefore, their world falls apart and will continue to fall apart. A homeland without equality is not a homeland; it is just an ideal that will never truly be realized.

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