Critical Review - Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart

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One World, Two Stories

Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” are two significant and well-known works treating colonialism in Africa. When reading these two stories, one cannot help but realize that though the two authors are making two separate points about two groups, Africans and Europeans, they both have somewhat of the same theme. In Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, the theme seems to be acceptance. Both main characters, Okonkwo and Marlow, change their behaviors based on their surroundings and on what they feel like they need to be or do in order to be accepted in their communities. In Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, the two main characters that I found to be the most relevant in the story were Okonkwo and Obierika. Okonkwo is the main character of this story. He is very headstrong and rational and he believes that showing compassion and kindness is a weakness. This is because his father showed these two attributes a lot - he was a poor man who borrowed a lot of money from other villagers and was never able to pay them back. Because of this, his family had to undergo many days without anything to eat or drink. Furthermore, Okonkwo’s father was a strong believer in talking, a great flute player, and he became very uneasy at the sign of blood. All of these attributes Okonkwo saw in his father he deemed as weak and a sign of not succeeding in life. He follows the traditions and customs of his people without any question of why things are done a certain way. In Achebe’s novel, Okonkwo mainly serves as a way to give the reader insights into the complicated social system of the Nigerian society. The second character that I chose from Achebe’s novel was Obierika. Obierika is Okonkwo’s closest friend and confidant. This surprised me because they are the total opposite of each other. Although he is nothing like Okonkwo’s father, Obierika is definitely a lot kinder and thoughtful. He is not afraid of questioning the way his village works. For instance, he does not accept the fact that his twins had to be left in the evil woods to die after they were born. He also was not happy with Okonkwo’s seven year banishment after he accidently shot the son of a high chief. Moreover, Obierika was his conscience when Okonkwo killed the boy who was like a son to him and tried to show strength by not showing any sign of care when the boy called out to him for help. Obierika believed that Okonkwo should not have committed that deed and that showing care for the boy would not have been a crime, or a sign of un-masculinity. To me, Obierika is the best offset to Okonkwo because he is an excellent example of a man who is brave and caring. In Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, we are thrown into a Nigerian village. Many people do not know the customs and traditions of this rural area. The reader is set back to a somewhat primitive time, which to me evokes the image of cavemen. Although some of the traditions and customs are very primitive (the beating of one’s wife, the degradation of females and anything feminine), the use of proverbs and folktales in every day conversations shows that there is a high sense of intelligence. Also, the fact that there are some social norms, such as the breaking of the cola nut and the following sharing of palm wine shows that there are some social expectations that must be followed. In Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, we begin with the knowledge that once upon a time, Britain was not a huge power holder, but an uncharted, unknown area that was discovered by the Romans. Then we are brought back to the present time of the story, where the main character Marlow is talking to a group of influential men on a boat. He seems to view himself as a great explorer, who must teach the people of Britain about the wilderness world before they enter it. I see Marlow as a type of explorer. He knows all there is about Britain; this is evident to us because of the way the story...
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