Things Fall Apart and Universal Appeal

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Things Fall Apart-Universal Appeal

Confronted with a global conscious filled with hazy, negative conception of the African reality, appalled with such one sided works as Heart of Darkness and Mr. Johnson, Chinua Achebe determined in 1958 to "inform the outside world about Ibo cultural traditions"1. One can appreciate then, Achebe's inclusion of universal themes and concepts in is novel as a means of bridging the cultural gap with his audience and reiterating that Africans are in the end, human, just as members of any other race.Woven throughout the text of Things Fall Apart are universal themes in the form of images, concepts, and situations.

“Does the white man understand our custom about land? How can he when he does not even speak our tongue?" (154) Achebe places major emphasis on language assign of cultural difference. Language barrier is a universal theme, every culture is familiar with the babel-fish gone wrong sort of scenario in which language barriers and misunderstandings become fatal.

Demonstrated throughout the text is the saphir-whorf concept which holds that the languange of a culture reflects the attitudes of that culture. The prevelent Igbo use of proverbs, referred to as "the palm-oil with which words are eaten", clashes with the British state of mind and is regarded by the District commisioner roundabout and foolish. Situations in which proverbs are used, such as the conversation between Okonwo's father and a debtee, "offer insight into the misunderstandings that occur between the Igbo and the Europeans".2 Furthermore, proverbs represent wisdom, and the concept of wisdom is Universal.

Achebe begins the novel with a description of Okonkwo as a Self made man. (4), a figure familiar to Western eyes with a particularly American immigrant feel. In this manner, Achebe is able to make Okonkwo respectable in the eyes of the novels many capitalist- minded, materialistic readers while contrasting the role material possession play in the Igbo...
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