Social Organization, Leadership Roles, and Colonial Presence in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”

Topics: Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, Igbo people Pages: 4 (1148 words) Published: June 23, 2013
Natalie Clark
Anth 2315/ Dr. Kennell
July 26, 2011
Social Organization, Leadership Roles, and Colonial Presence in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” tells the story of Okonkwo, an ambitious man from the Igbo village of Umuofia, in modern day Nigeria at the onset of the Colonial era. Okonkwo is a rising member of the society until he inadvertently kills a kinsman and must flee for seven years to his mother’s clan so as not to offend the earth goddess of the village. During this time, British Colonialism reaches the Igbo people and quickly alters their traditional way of life. Through this tale of the Igbo Achebe seeks to illustrate the complexities of African societies and how deeply these African societies were affected by Colonialism.

Many Europeans entering Africa during the colonial period viewed African society as “primitive” and lacking the depth of western society. Achebe’s novel seeks to illustrate that far from being unstructured and chaotic, African society was very complex. Umuofian society was not parceled into different spheres of practice but instead maintained a delicate balance in which all aspects of society, from religion to gender roles, are intertwined in order to keep the society running smoothly. The village was lead by elders or men “of title” who earned their status mostly through personal achievements rather than inheritance (Achebe, 7). Achievements, wisdom, and age all merited respect. Essentially, this respect was a type of social capital that the man could exchange for political capital in a informal power structure. At times this leadership structure was stronger than others. Sometimes the elders of the village were distinguished in their position of authority, such as the times they perform religious tasks for the community. However, even when the role of the village leaders if defined they feel a responsibility to the community, as the only members of the society qualified...

Bibliography: Chinua Achebe. “Things Fall Apart: a Norton Critical Edition.” Francis Abiola Irele, ed. New
York: 2009.
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