The “African-ness” of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the African culture is depicted by following the life of Okonkwo, a rather customary and conventional African villager. Achebe wanted to write a novel that portrays accurately the African society in the mid to late 1800s in Nigeria, at the time the novel is set. As a child, Achebe spoke the Ibo language, but he was raised in a Christian home. Achebe used the knowledge he gained from the African life to put together history and fiction into a novel that he believes correctly illustrates the African culture before and after the arrival of the Christian missionaries. Thus, the reader is given a taste of the “African-ness” of the novel through Achebe’s use of Ibo language and his depiction of culture, religion and folklore in Africa at the time. The first way that Chinua Achebe uses to give the reader an accurate taste of the African and Ibo tribe is through language. By introducing numerous Ibo words and phrases in his novel, Achebe proves that some of these terms are too complex to be directly translated to English. Hence, Achebe emphasizes the richness of the Ibo language and contradicts all misconceptions that discredit the African language. While some of the Ibo words might be confusing at first, the reader grows to learn some of the basic terms at the end of the novel. Achebe also provides a glossary of Ibo words that a reader can refer to for definitions. Furthermore, the author stresses the presence of various versions of the African language at the time. For instance, Mr. Brown’s translator is ridiculed by the Ibo villagers when he uses a language that has slight variations to theirs. Aside from the everyday words of the Ibo tribe such as nno meaning “welcome” and iba meaning “fever”, most of the terms that Achebe uses are terms that have religious or cultural denotation. For example, he uses the term egwugwu to refer to “a masquerade who impersonates one of the...
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