Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: An Analysis of Christianity and Igbo Tradition
The Mbaino tribe in Things Fall Apart practice many traditions that the Western culture would deem superstitious. The Western religion allows for the Christian ideals to prove many of the native traditions superfluous when infiltrating the native’s land during colonization. This disassembling of traditions is introduced by Christianity’s unshakeable stance that native deities have no power because they are mythical. However, the new practices and dismantling of tradition the missionaries prove can never be revoked or forgotten from the native lands. The Christians first must defy a strong belief held amongst each tribe and that is the beliefs about the Evil Forest. Because the tribe would never try to put the missionaries in a position where they could cultivate and grow stronger, the elders give them a piece of land that would surely take care of the nuisance of the conflicting religion illustrating the esteem the Evil Forest has among the tribe. Achebe writes, “ they did not really want them in their clan, and so they made them that offer which nobody in his right senses would accept. ‘They want a piece of land…said Uchendu…”we shall give them a piece of land.’ He paused, and there was a murmur of surprise and disagreement. ‘Let us give them a portion of the Evil Forest, they boast about victory over death. Let us give them a real battlefield…” (149). However, the missionaries eliminate the power of the forest by inhabiting it. The missionaries were undaunted by the land and the natives could not ignore the missionaries prevalent attitudes, “and then it became known that the white man’s fetish had unbelievable power… Not long after, he won his first three converts” (149). Nevertheless, the power of the forest was not completely revoked until the final day the villagers believed the gods allotted for evil. Achebe explains, “in such cases they set their limit at seven market weeks, or twenty-eight days. Beyond that limit no man was suffered to go… the villagers were so certain about the doom that awaited these men that one or two converts thought it wise to suspend their allegiance”(150). The beliefs are so strong in the tribe that even the converted men decide to stop and see what happens. The outcome is crucial for the missionaries. The Evil Forest represents a land cursed by their many gods. When a native tries to defy any of their multiple deities’ cursings or laws the outcome yields death. The Evil Forest, therefore, is the only place to banish those that are cursed and are evil, with sickness, or newly born twins, or mutilated baby bodies because banishment to the Evil Forests separates the tribe’s community from the a traditional evil and keeps them safe from their deities’ wrath by not harboring evil in their communities. Bastian, the author of “The Demon Superstition”, writes a thorough evaluation of both sides from the history of the Church Mission Society and Ontisha, Nigeria. Her examination focuses on “the idea of paradox—of two oppositional paradigms competing for truth value in a group’s imaginary—[which] is particularly salient” (14). This is demonstrated in each case the missionaries verify the truth of their beliefs as they unravel each superstition. The power the missionaries derive from the ‘truth value’ earned in each episode is critical in their conversion of the Igbos. This adds to the truth value that the missionaries carry. After The missionaries disprove the mystical that is to stop the abominable outcasts from converting. The missionaries, by gaining more truth value to their claims, create more converts and embark on a strategic tool; “the dissolution of the ‘bond of kinship’” (McDowell par. 8). McDowell points out, “A more subtle tear in the social fabric results from the coming of the missionaries. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that they are only able to convert the worthless, the castoffs, the...
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