African Culture “Things Fall Apart” – short summary of the book, analysis of African Culture before by appearance of white man. Things fall apart, is the story of an Ibo village- Umuofia , which takes place in the late 1800s. Things Fall Apart analyzes the destruction of African culture by the appearance of the white man (Christian Missionaries) in terms of the destruction of the bonds between individuals and their society. Christian Missionaries try to convert the people of the Ibo society to Christianity, and in their efforts of doing so, they bring about a downfall in the social and cultural structure of the people in this society. Like the title suggests Things fall apart in the society largely due to the interference of the Christian Missionaries. The main character in this story are Okonkwo a”strong” man whose life are dominated by fear and anger.
Okonkwo was known throughout the village for his strength and valor. He was the greatest wrestler alive! Okonkwo had achieved quite in his life, he was a wealthy farmer, a husband with three wives, a title-holder among his people. However, Okonkwos childhood was not a happy one. Okonkwos father Unoka, was quite an unsuccessful man. He did not hold any titles, which was considered a shame in his clan. Unoka was lazy and improvident when he was young, he owned almost all of his neighbors some amount of money. Probably the only thing that Unoka was good at was at his flute, with which he wasted most of his time. Unoka was a man who didnt care much about tomorrow.
When Unoka died he was heavily in debt and had taken no title at all. Okonkwo had to fend for himself right from childhood. Fortunately a man in his clan was judged on his own worth and not that of his father. Age was respected among his people but achievement revered. And Okonkwo was a man of great achievements.
However, such a childhood left quite some scars on Okonkwos life. Okonkwo was scared of failure, to be called weak. So to put up a show of his strength and manliness, he was a very stern and aggressive when it came to treating women, because that is what was considered to be manlike in the Ibo Society. B. Give specific example of values of the culture described in the book and explain how they are important to the development of the story. Respect: Age was respected among his people but achievement was revered People of the Ibo culture had respect for age. An old person was looked up upon, given due respect. At the same time, a person with abilities and achievements was also honored, like in the case of Okonkwo, whose fame rested on his solid personal achievements. He was a wealthy farmer , a champion in wrestling and a *successful man.
Similarly even the art of conversation was rewarded very highly, a person with good conversational skills was respected for his ability! Success: The measure of a mans success was mainly based upon the number of wives he had, the size of his barn and the number of titles he had taken. In all there were 4 titles, the highest and most difficult to achieve being the fourth. A man with many titles was looked upon with great respect in the village. Belief in the Supernatural: The people in this culture had firm belief in supernatural powers. They believed that after death their ancestors became spirits called egwugwu.
They believed in the power of the Oracle (a holy spirit who preached and advised the people), and its decisions. One who disobeyed the Oracle was punished. Okonkwo had to goon an exile for seven years because of such laws against Male Domination: The Ibo society showed prominent male dominance. In the Ibo society anything strong was likened to man and anything weak to woman. The husband was the chief of the family.
Bigamy was allowed. The tribe also allowed wife beating . The novel describes two instances when Okonkwo beats his second wife, once when she did not come home to make his meal. He beat her severely and was punished but only because he beat her during the Week of Peace. He beat her again when she referred to him as one of those “guns that never shot.” Role of Women: In his novel Mr.Achebe shows that the Ibo nonetheless assigned important roles to women.
For instance, women painted the houses of the egwugwu. Furthermore, the first wife of a man in the Ibo society is paid some respect. This deference is illustrated by the palm wine ceremony at Nwakibie’s obi . Anasi, Nwakibie’s first wife, had not yet arrived and “the others [other wives] could not drink before her”. The importance of woman’s role appears when Okonkwo is exiled to his motherland.
His uncle, Uchendu, noticing Okonkwo’s distress, eloquently explains how Okonkwo should view his exile: “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 his motherland.” A man has both joy and sorrow in his life and when the bad times come his “mother” is always there to comfort him. Thus comes the saying “Mother is Supreme”. Religion: The Ibo tribe had very strong faith in their Gods. Unlike in Christianity their Gods were represented by the forces of nature, the earth, etc.
They believed that if the law of the religion is not observed, it leads to dire consequences. The ritual where a mother who gives birth to twins, has to leave them to die in the forest, describes the strong influence of these laws over the people. Okonkwo had to goon an exile for seven years because of such laws of the earth God. It is this faith draws them to rebel against the missionaries. IIA -As cultures come into conflict , some individuals are invariably “caught” between the two.
Explain the nature of the conflict and the effect on the main characters. It is true that as cultures come into conflict, some individuals are invariable caught between the two. In this novel, it is Okonkwo who is “caught” between the conflict of the two cultures- his own culture and the culture that the Christian missionaries are trying hard to incorporate into the Ibo people. In the story, at a funeral inadvertently the misfiring of Okonkwos gun, results in the death of a person from his clan. The punishment for such a crime is exile from the village for seven years.
So Okonkwo was forced to collect his family- his three wives and their children and all his belongings and to flee from his village. Okonkwo decided to move to his motherland, a small village called Mbanta. Life for Okonkwo in his motherland turned out to be quite difficult. This phase of seven years was a very difficult phase. He and his family had to work very hard to plant a new farm.
Work no longer had for him the pleasure it used to have, and when there was no work to do he sat ina silent half-asleep (pg.131) Okonkwo had lost his zest for life. Although he knew that these seven years had adversely affected all his ambitions to become one of the lords of the clan (to achieve the 4th and most sought after title ), he looked forward to returning back to his village, to restart his life in his fatherland. But that was not to be. The interference of the Christian missionaries brought about a lot of change- most of it being negative! It was because of the missionaries that Okonkwos fatherland was now falling apart between two groups, the new converts and the clan of the village. It became Okonkwos desire to get rid of the Christian Missionaries.
He finally returned to his fatherland. but to find a totally changed land, where the clan was no more full of strong men and brave hearts. The people had become more passive, they were afraid of the Christian missionaries, but Okonkwo as always wanted them out of their way, by killing them. This led to a conflict between the people of his clan, the missionaries and himself, where he was stuck in the middle. He finally decided that irrespective of the support of his clansmen, he would avenge the Christian missionaries- who by now had totally changed the face of the villages, by defying the religions and beliefs of the clan.
He ended up killing one of the messengers, and then committing suicide- which was considered an unholy thing to do in his clan. This was not a suitable end to a warrior the caliber of Okonkwo! I found it to be a really touching story. Although the customs and beliefs of the Ibo tribe seem very strange to me too, I feel that no culture should be interfered with nor should it be tried to change it to ones satisfaction. A culture is most beautiful the way it is- any undesired change to it, would only be a deterioration in its beauty.