Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Achebe would choose to take the title of “The Second Coming” probably because the Igbo tribe falls apart inside due to social issues & more as it was said in the poem, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”. This deepens/extends the meaning of Achebe’s title and novel because the main center of the Igbo tribe was losing its strength and conflicts were bound to happen because of this.
Okonkwo was quite popular throughout the villages. After a wrestling match he began to gain fame. He was tall, huge, and had bushy eyebrows with a wide nose. He also used physical violence to make his point or release his anger. In addition, he hardly ever showed any other expression than anger whether he felt emotional inside or not. He was impatient with unsuccessful men such as his father and tried his best not to grow up like his dad. Okonkwo was a wealthy farmer with two barns full of yam and three wives. As an Igbo heroic character, Okonkwo works to achieve greatness as defined by his community and culture by defeating the Cat to become the greatest wrestler among the nine villages, showing prowess in two intertribal wars, marrying three wives, and obtaining two barns full of yam. Okonkwo differs from Western heroes whom I am familiar with because unlike the Western heroes he beats his wife, and is also uncomfortable with his father’s failures. Also, familiar Western heroes are quite easy to get along with, have special type of powers or secret identity, and are mostly friendly. Okonkwo has no type of powers or secret identity, a very hard person to deal with and never stops showing angry expressions. Okonkwo is strong in fighting, working hard, and maintaining order & discipline but weak in farming crops and showing emotion & love to others even his family.
Unoka was tall, lazy, improvident, and thin with a slight stoop. As soon as he got some money he spent it on palm-wine and had a good time with his neighbors. He was a debtor and owed every neighbor. He was also quite talented on the flute. As Unoka got older, he became a failure. He was poor and could barely feed his wife and children. Unoka was always able to borrow more and more money but could never pay it back. Okonkwo didn’t want to have anything in common with his father. That is how much he disliked Unoka. The negative example of his father shaped Okonkwo’s character and actions. Fear of becoming like Unoka served as a motivation for Okonkwo to become successful. As a little boy, Okonkwo’s playmate even told him that Unoka was a woman/a man who had taken no title (agbala). This made Okonkwo live to hate everything Unoka loved which was gentleness and idleness. As a result, Okonkwo worked daily on the farms and he beat & nagged anyone of his children who showed a sign of his father’s laziness while working. The early descriptions of Okonkwo’s success and Unoka’s failure tell us that in the Igbo society they’re judged based on their accomplishments and achievements, not by what their past family has done. One succeeds in this cultural context by working hard and showing bravery. In addition, one succeeds by having good land (good farming), a large family, and showing prowess while fighting in wars. From the system of taking titles, we learn who has fought for their tribe in war and who has done it more or better. Women seem to be excluded from opportunities to gain such success.
Achebe’s intended audience might be the Western/European audience, especially the ones who think their culture is superior to African culture. As an outsider to Igbo culture, reading about it intrigues me. It’s interesting to see how another culture that I’m unfamiliar with is practiced. It helps open my mind to view other cultures the same as I view mine and not to make fun of or discriminate against other cultures. Achebe’s language choice adds more of a cultural feeling to the novel and engages the reader to see...
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