Things Fall Apart Essay
Many societies have beliefs rooted deep in ancient religion. Some beliefs include polygamy, polytheism, and patriarchy, or rule by men. One such culture is that of Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Polytheism and polygamy are custom in the clan, and the role of each family member is very defined. The men are overly domineering. The women and children are treated poorly and often beaten. Life in Achebe's Umuofia would seem very different to someone living in modern day America. So, by closely anazlyzing the relationship and societies between the Umuofian society and the Christians, both societies should be able to trade ideas and be at peace.
Chinua Achebe's 1959 novel, Things Fall Apart, takes place in the 1890s, just before British colonization. The novel focuses on the nine Ibo-speaking villages of Umuofia, which is Ibo for "People of the Forest." Umuofia is the village in which Okonkwo, Achebe's protagonist, prospers in everything and is able to secure his manly position in the tribe. Now known as Nigeria, this land was a primitive agricultural society completely run by men. Umuofia was known, and as Achebe says, "...feared by all it's neighbors. It was powerful in war and in magic, and priests and medicine men were feared in all the surrounding country" (11). Perhaps, its most powerful and feared magic was called.” agadi- nwayi, or old woman it had its shrine in the centre of Umuofia ... if anyone was so foolhardy as to pass by the shrine past dusk he was sure to see the old woman"(12). The people of Umuofia are very devoted to their religion and their magic. These ancient beliefs were believed to give the people some sort of power over their oppressors.
One custom of Umuofia that would be very different from Western culture is Polygamy, the practice of having many wives. This custom is practiced in the connected nine villages of Umuofia. In fact, a man's wealth is partially measured by the number of wives he has. A wealthy man described in Things Fall Apart, had nine wives and thirty children. Okonkwo had three wives and eight children.
Polygamy is not something many Americans are accustomed to. Western culture teaches that monogamy, as opposed to polygamy, is the proper, accepted form of marriage. Western culture places that morality into its people, often from youth. In Western culture, having more than one partner in a marriage is often cause for divorce; however, in Umoufia it is practiced and even encouraged by most of its people.
Another common belief in Umoufia is polytheism, the worship or belief in many gods. Included in their practice of polytheism is their chi, or personal god. Achebe says, "A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi" (131). He goes on to say, "Unoka was an ill-fated man. He had a bad chi, or personal god, and evil fortune followed him to the grave..." (18). Achebe demonstrates that this is a god of great importance that foretells one's future. It is custom to make sacrifices to the gods, like Unoka in Achebe's novel tells, "Every year... before I put any crop in the earth, I sacrifice a cock to Ani, the owner of all land. I also kill a cock at the shrine of Ifejioku, the god of yams" (17). This shows the importance of ritual, and religion in Ibo society. Okonkwo believed he was successful because he killed a couple of roosters, not because he planted good crops.
Western culture does not practice the ritual of sacrifice; most western religions look down upon living sacrifices. Judaism, a religion that used to practice sacrifices, has now opted to remove the ritual from its teachings in favor of a non-violent rite. Other western religions have never sacrificed animals to their gods. In most states, killing an animal sacrificially would violate animal cruelty laws, which would make animal sacrifices illegal in most of the U.S.
Members in Umuofia's society often found flaws in their beliefs. The religion bothered and hurt many clan members, and aided...
Cited: Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Random House, 1994.
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