Imperialism Research Paper

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1850-1914: The Destruction of Unique Nations
Imperialism, defined as “the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies” (Merriam-Webster Online), typically involves a stronger and more technologically advanced nation taking over a lesser nation and using it for land, resources, or cheap labor. Imperialism was most prominent in the era from 1850-1914. Imperialism often influences the weaker nation negatively, though the weaker nation may adopt some of the technology or ideas of the stronger one. The stronger nation justifies its actions with social Darwinism and the ideas that they are a superior nation. However, in reality, they are destroying civilizations for their own gain. During the process of Imperialism, as represented in literature and history, the effected nations were hurt to the extent that the negative effects outweigh the occasional benefits. Things Fall Apart tells the story of British Colonialism and Christian missionary work in a village in what is now Nigeria. The dynamics that affect the village interestingly parallel the impacts of European invasion of other parts of the world where more traditional cultures like the Umuofian tribes changed forever due to the arrival of the Europeans. The early parts of the book focus on Okonkwo and his family and village. The book, while discussing the characters, describes in detail many of the customs and beliefs of traditional African societies. The book does not focus on why the traditional culture is good, or better than the European culture. Instead, it describes the culture as it was, with positive dynamics and some other societal norms that could be perceived by contemporary Westerners as less appealing, such as disposing newborn twins, or allowing wife abuse. The author’s point is not to create a good versus evil, black-and-white story about bad invaders and good villagers, but rather an interesting and honest assessment of what happens to a traditional culture when a more technically advanced and aggressive competitor enters their world without their permission. Thus, the life of Okonkwo becomes a symbol of the impact of European aggression on Nigeria and its native tribes. The British, in the story, bring Christianity to the natives. As people begin to convert, the deep link between the tribe’s cultural past and its people begins to fray, because the tribe’s moral and ethical rules are intricately tied to a belief system that grew out of centuries of traditional living. This has allowed the village to function, to self-govern, and to create rules on resolving conflicts between village members, and between villages and other villages. While Western civilizations might have looked down on the religious beliefs and superstitions of the Ibo people, the truth is the system functioned well and allowed the Nigerian villages to thrive and inter-relate. The arrival of the “white men” and their new religion changes the balance that has been created over the years in the village. Missionaries tell the villagers that their gods are false and that their traditions are not valid in the new world of worshiping “the One God.” During a conversation with Okonkwo, Obierika, one of his friends, questions the white man’s assertions, “How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad; and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (Achebe 152). Obierka explains the situation the British inflicted upon the Ibo. The white man converts...
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