A Post-colonial Analysis of a Changing Society
in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958)
The desire to conquer land that was previously unexplored has existed throughout history. This desire forced many indigenous societies, who were usually dominated technologically, to adapt to the teachings and overall system of the ‘superior’ conqueror nation with destruction as the only alternative. This causes a major impact on how a certain society functions, even after seeking independence from the foreigners. The rise and fall of indigenous societies can be analyzed through various media. Chinua Achebe is a novelist specializing in African literature, and this essay deals with the themes regarding colonialism in one of his many novels. In particular, the Igbo people in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart have their beliefs undermined by the British. As such, their ideals are viewed as savage and uncivilized, which caused a divide among the Igbo people. A useful theory to analyze the theme of a changing society is the post-colonial theory, which deals with the abnormal alterations that a society experiences because of an outside source, also called a ‘colonial power’. Post-colonial literary criticism is a useful theoretical tool to analyze the fall of indigenous society as depicted in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. In particular, the theoretical concepts of the process of colonization from the perspective of the colonized, the psychological impact colonization has on the Igbo people, and the Indigenous resistance to colonization are relevant to the analysis of the fall of indigenous society in Achebe’s seminal novel. To begin, colonization refers to the act of establishing colonies. This is mainly done to expand the territory of a certain nation, increase their own resource supply, and find new resources in the land being conquered. Colonization may have a positive effect on the colonizer, but the process of colonization typically affects the indigenous population negatively. Colonization causes change, which usually takes the form of whatever the colonizer believes to be correct without considering the ideas of the indigenous people who are in some cases treated like livestock. The greater the difference between the colonizer and the colonized, the greater the change that occurs from the perspective of the colonized. Once a society has been completely altered, the indigenous people not only begin to experience changes to their lifestyle, but also a change in the way they view the world. The novel Things Fall Apart describes the Igbo society before and after the British arrives. The first part of the novel deals with the tribal lifestyle of the Igbo people, which is the author’s way of showing the culture of the Igbo people from their own perspective. The Igbo people have been long time practitioners of their faith, with the next generation following the footsteps of their forefathers. Their culture and view of the world remains unchanged until the British arrive. During Okonkwo’s seven year exile from Umuofia, not only does his own village begin to change, but the neighboring villages appear to be changing as well. Due to the technological advancements occurring in Europe, the Igbo people are helpless against the British missionaries who arrive, as explained by the quotation, “Have you heard, asked Obierika, ‘that Abame is no more?’ … ‘Abame has been wiped out,’ said Obierika (119).” The quotation reveals that the Igbo people are beginning to realize that they must either adapt and accept the foreigners or risk becoming completely annihilated similar to their fellow tribesmen from the village of Abame. It is evident that the goal of the colonizer is to bring change to the nation being occupied, but these changes often bring chaos to the indigenous people’s way of life, which in turn can alter the way their society functions. Secondly, the mentality of the colonizer and the colonized differ significantly. While the...
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