Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart commonly portrays the picture of how the white men pervade African society and bring an insult to African culture, politics, economy, and religion.
The writer also makes us know imagery of the havoc wreaked on African values and how the black men rise to fight against such acts.
In Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart, we see how missionaries/evangelists pervade Umuofia with the new religion.
Note, captured by the new religion, goes to Umuofia with the missionaries/evangelists. We see the arrival of Christianity into this sedate rural community.
There are false starts on both sides. The people are not willing listeners and the missionaries are not imaginative gospellers, but Mr. Brown’s influence gives everybody a good start.
The missionaries begin to win converts because of their victory over the evil forest. The clansmen interpret this to mean that “the white man’s fetish has unbelievable power”.
This is their language and in terms of which they see the white man’s world. Nneka (“woman is supreme”), heavy with child and mother of twins, joins the missionaries.
Also Note, now makes a total self-committal to the new faith which appears to be cleaning and answering the vague puzzle in his background.
Peaceful co-existence so long as missionaries keep within the evil forest shared by lepers, smallpox victims, invite open conflict as did three converts on page 110, and to defy or test other beliefs is to court disaster.
For example, did Okoli (who died before he could defend himself) kill the sacred python? Yes or no, the python has been killed and to Okonkwo’s disgust, only a mild penalty of ostracism is imposed on the Christians-men and women folk.
Okonkwo returns to a fast-changing Umuofia. Not only the low-born and outcasts but even a title man, Ogbuefi Ugonna, has joined the Christians
The white has also brought a government as a system of running it. Christianity, schools, trading, and government reinforce each other and combine to undo the old order.
“What is it that has happened to our people,” asks Okonkwo, “why have they lost the power to fight?” and he resolves on behalf of the clan. “we must fight these men and drive them from the land.”
Under the leadership of Mr. Brown the Christian church restrains excesses and concentrates on drawing parallels rather than contrasts between what they bring, and what they find.
The egwugwu, fired by Okonkwo, attack the mission and demolish the red-earth church that Mr. Brown had built. Note the controlled fury in the attack.
Recent developments and changes overshadow Okonkwo’s return and as before he turns inwards to himself to draw on what strength there may be left to lift himself and his clan above this degradation: ‘He mourned for the clan, which he saw breaking up and falling apart, and has mourned for the warlike women,’
Okonkwo is dancing furious steps to the mad drums of his imagination and passing glory. It takes two to make a fight and so we meet the reverend James smith, Mr. BrownBrown’s successor, and Okonkwo’s equal in zeal.
Rev. Smith has an assistant-to-match In Enoch who now expects the Christian community to endorse everything he dares, like unmasking an egwugwu in public. Like Okonkwo, he is crestfallen because his clan will not rise and fight.
Okonkwo returns to momentary glory and a position of influence. The district commissioner tricks six Umuofia elders who suffer painful humiliation in prison cells.
Note the role the messengers are playing in this process of humiliation. Swift moves to hail the six prisoners are made.
Okonkwo and his fellow prisoner are released. Okonkwo now develops two ways of looking at a current event: as they affect the clan and as they affect his person.
‘If Umuofia decides on war, all would be well. But if they chose to be cowards he would go out and avenge himself.’ If egonwane counsels peace with his talk of a war of blame,’ Okonkwo decides, he will show him back and head.
The unpleasant meeting in the marketplace comes to an abrupt end with the appearance of five court messengers whose leader Okonkwo beheads.
To his shock and surprise his clansmen break into tumult instead of action and they let the other five messengers escape.
Division of the novel
It is divided into three parts.
- It talks about peace, unity, oneness, sharing a common awareness, and acting like one of the black people in the east.
- It reveals the arrival of the white men who broke their unity.
- It portrays the picture standing against the missionaries which led to the falling apart of the black people and the death of Okonkwo
Language of the novel
Many writers have commented on and praised the simple words and short sentences which give things Fall Apart its ease in reading.
Both are deliberate and they enable Achebe to make his point without having to skirt around his subject. Sometimes both invoke an atmosphere of sacredness. Listen to:
Another characteristic of the style of things falling apart is economy, not only in the use of words and phrases but also in the narrative.
If you look carefully you will see the stitches where Achebe has been sewing the different bits of his narrative together. These apparent stitches do not
Among the above, the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.’
This sentence is a key and compliment to Achebe’s skill as a novelist. In all his novels he uses proverbs with the art of a traditional conversationalist.
A proverb not only makes a point, but it also fixes it in our minds. Sometimes it seems a pity that Achebe has, of necessity, to explain his proverbs.