Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel

Mir Hassan

 Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel

Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel

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In this post, I am going to discuss the question ' Discuss Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel'. I will provide a perfect answer of the question. Hope this answer is helpful. 

Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel: A Postcolonial Analysis of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

 Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a historical novel that can be interpreted as a decolonization narrative. Set in Nigeria during the late nineteenth century, the novel delves into the devastating effects of colonialism on African culture and how it ultimately leads to the destruction of the Igbo community. Through the protagonist Okonkwo's journey, the novel exposes the profound psychological and social consequences of colonialism on both the individual and the community. It highlights the detrimental impact that colonialism had on African societies, leaving them in a state of disarray.



Things Fall Apart is a good example of postcolonial literature. Postcolonial writing explores themes of justice, equality, and freedom that are still relevant today. It serves as a reminder of the importance of our freedoms and the need to protect them. "Things Fall Apart" is a masterpiece that weaves together various examples of meta-narrative, decolonization struggles, and colonial discourse throughout the novel. Chinua Achebe's writing style is a testament to his ability to subvert his European colonizers. His use of these techniques is a powerful tool in showcasing the struggles of those who have been oppressed and marginalized


 The novel provides a detailed and intimate look into the ways in which the Igbo people lived before the arrival of the Europeans. It shows how the community functioned, how people interacted with each other, and how they practiced their religion. The novel provides an in-depth understanding of the Igbo culture, which is necessary for the process of decolonization. The author makes it clear that the Igbo culture is rich and complex, with its own set of values and practices that were working well before the arrival of the Europeans.


However, the novel also shows the negative impact of colonialism on the Igbo culture. The arrival of the Europeans brings with it a new set of values and beliefs that clash with the traditional Igbo way of life. The Europeans attempt to impose their way of life on the Igbo people, which leads to the destruction of their culture. The novel portrays the loss of identity and the confusion that follows as the Igbo people try to adjust to the new order imposed by the Europeans.


Another way in which the novel represents decolonization is through the character of Okonkwo. Okonkwo is a symbol of the traditional Igbo culture and the resistance to the changes brought by the Europeans. He is a proud warrior who values strength and masculinity above all else. He is unwilling to accept the changes brought by the Europeans and feels that they are a threat to his way of life. Okonkwo's resistance to change and his eventual downfall can be seen as a representation of the process of decolonization. As the novel progresses, Okonkwo is forced to confront the reality that his culture is changing and that he must adapt to survive.


The novel also portrays the struggles that arise as a result of the clash between the traditional Igbo culture and the European way of life. The Europeans brought with them new technologies, such as guns and Christianity, which give them an advantage over the Igbo people. The novel depicts the power imbalance that exists between the two cultures and the resulting conflict that arises as a result. The novel shows how the Europeans use their superior technology and knowledge to dominate and exploit the Igbo people.


 Things Fall Apart is a novel that portrays the process of decolonization. The character of Okonkwo is a symbol of the traditional Igbo culture and the resistance to the changes brought by the Europeans. The novel also depicts the power imbalance between the traditional Igbo culture and the European way of life and the resulting conflict that arises. Through the portrayal of the Igbo culture and the character of Okonkwo, the novel shows the importance of understanding the past and the struggles that arise during the process of decolonization.



The novel's central character, Okonkwo, is a proud and ambitious Igbo man who resents the white colonialists and their intrusion into his society. He feels that they are a threat to his culture and way of life. However, as the novel progresses, Okonkwo realizes that his society is unable to resist the forces of colonialism, and he eventually takes his own life in despair.


Critics have lauded Achebe's portrayal of the Igbo society and their struggles against colonialism. The novel depicts the complexities of colonialism and the various ways in which it affected different members of society. Critics have praised Achebe's use of language and storytelling techniques, which effectively convey the cultural nuances and traditions of the Igbo people.


Some critics have also pointed out that the novel is not simply a critique of colonialism but also a critique of traditional Igbo society. Achebe highlights the gender inequalities and violent practices that existed within the society, and he suggests that these practices contributed to the society's vulnerability to colonialism.


In conclusion, Things Fall Apart is a post-colonial novel that explores the impact of colonialism on Igbo society in Nigeria. Critics have widely regarded the novel as a seminal work of post-colonial literature, and it effectively conveys the cultural clashes and misunderstandings that occurred during the colonial era. However, the novel is not simply a critique of colonialism but also a critique of traditional Igbo society.


Achebe-As A Novelist

Achebe wanted to study medicine but he failed to do so far for one reason or the other. He, then studied literature, history, and religion. He also acquired knowledge of Nigerian history, so that he might understand its ancient culture and the then-existing traditions and rituals. When he was a student of the university he had started writing short stories and novels. The theme of his novels was based on Nigerian culture. His three novels Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, and Arrow of God were published in 1958, 1960, and 1964 respectively. His other three novels are A Man of the People (1966) Chike and the River and Anthills of the Savannah (1988). All the Novels depict the ancient culture of Nigeria and its opposition to the missionary’s campaign of attracting the people to Christianity.




Achebe is considered not only to be the inventor of African literature but also the conscience thereof. It has always been his purpose as a storyteller to appeal to the morality and humanity of his readers and to give their life fuller meaning. He states his mission in his essay "The Novelist as teacher", "Here is an adequate revolution for me to espouse to help my society regain belief in itself and to put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement." And it is essentially a question of education in the best sense of that word. Here, I think, my aims and the deepest aspirations  of society meet. Thus, Achebe believes that any good story, any good novel should ha message, should have a purpose.



Although he has also written poetry, short stories, and essays, both literary and political, Chinua Achebe is best known for his novels. Considering these novels, Anthony Daniels writes in Spectator, "In Prose of Great Elegance, without any technical distraction, he has been able to illuminate two emotionally irreconcilable facets of modern African life; the humiliations heaped on Africans by colonialism; and the utter moral worthlessness of what replaced colonial rule." Set in this historical context, Achebe's novels develop the theme of "traditional change" and offer, as Palmer observes, "A powerful presentation of the beauty, strength, and validity of traditional life and values and the disruptiveness of change." Even so, the author does not appeal for a return to the ways of the past. Palmer notes that, "While deploring the imperialist’s brutality and condescension [Achebe] seems to suggest that change is inevitable and wise men reconcile themselves to accommodating change."



Salient Features of Achebe's Novels


Proverbs and Folklore-Achebe, who believes that cultures use folklore to pass on great cultural richness thinks such folklore can provide solutions to a people's questions and problems. Folklore, which is an important feature of the Ibo culture, finds an appropriate place in the novels of Achebe. By the time we come to Ibo society in Nigeria in 'No Longer at Ease', most traditional values have disappeared but some of the proverbs that explicate moral, and spiritual wisdom remain with the people. Here are three examples: "Wherever something stands, another thing stands beside it", "He who has people is richer than he who has money", The impatience and the foolhardiness of the Obi Okonkwo's are compared to that of "the young antelope who danced herself lame when the main dance was yet to come." 'A Man of the People, Achebe's fourth novel, has a number of proverbs that clearly trace the decay of cultural values in Nigerian society. Selfishness, greed and desire for power characterize political leaders like Chief Nanga. The general motto of the people's leaders is, "Ours is ours but mine is mine." Achebe's characters make use of folklore to make their arguments forcefully and effectively illustrate moral values.



The story of the title bird Nza occurs both in Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God. It brings home the fact that a man should never provoke his fate. He should know where to draw a line of limit in his pursuit of power. The same wisdom is evident in the story of the bird Eneke Oka and the story of the wrestler.

Among the Ibos an excellent wrestler is one who wins not only in the human world but also in the world of spirits. Thus, Okonkwo's ability at wrestling is aptly compared to that of the founder of the town' who according to folktale, "engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days. and seven nights."


The Didactic Animal Tale-The didactic animal tale appears in almost all of Achebe's novels. In Things Fall Apart, the tales of the wily tortoise, expose the wicked nature of human beings, and the story of the mother kite shows the folly of the people of Abame. Such tales also. point out the indifference and inconsiderateness of human beings in 'No Longer at Ease', and in the same novel the story of the leopardess illustrates the ill effects of greed.

Men's and women's stories illustrate male and female values. While Okonkwo's stories exemplify warfare and violence in order to inculcate courage in children, Ekwefi's stories of the mosquito, and Obiageli's unending chain tale are meant for entertainment.


Legend----- -Legend is one of the many elements that lend fascination to 'Things Fall Apart' and Arrow of God. Several of them concern the origin of Ulu, the legend of Idemili, the legends of Egwugwu are a few of the many legends mentioned. Since market is important in the Ibo society, market legends are also mentioned. The popularity of the legends shows that the traditions of the clan are kept alive.


Ceremonies------The elaborate description of various ceremonies gives us a chance to have a closer look at the well-developed symbolic view of religion in ancient societies. They also lend charm to the narrative as do the stars to the night sky. Some interesting ceremonies include the appearance and proceedings of the Egwugwu, the first coming of Ulu, the Idemili festival. The ceremony of Akwunro and the ceremony of egbazulubodo are examples of the same sort.



Customs ----- An example of Achebe's use of customs appears in the description of the treatment given to a guest upon entering a friend's Obi, a guest is seated either on a goatskin mat or on an earthen stool. Then he is given a piece of chalk with which he draws his emblem on the floor and paints his toe or face. The bond of goodwill is complete with the passing of the Kola around and sharing its contents.


The description of Okonkwo's obi and shrine, Ezculu's shrine tells us of their architecture. Simultaneously, there are human sacrifices, matilation of a diseased ogbanje child, the Osu practice, the belief in jaja medicine, the belief in reincarnation, the spirit possession, the belief in the divinity of a Python, the belief of running over a dog for good luck and the taboo of running over a duck, cast a shadow on the culture of the society. Closely aligned to oratory are the salutation names. The naming system is important to the Ibos. Its importance is especially evident in Ekwefi's attempts to save the children by the name she gives. Nine die before one daughter Ezinma survives. She names the children in such a way as to break the cycle of Ogbanje children. A few were onwumbiko, "Death, I implore you," Ozoemena, "May it not happen again," and finally Oneumna, Death may please himself. The naming system is shown to have importance in No Longer at Ease also. The respect shown to women is implied in calling a man "Son of our Daughter". Name calling such as "Antihill nose," "Long throat", descriptive phrases such as the tongue with which to tell the story "looking with the tail of his eye" or the sensitiveness of a snail's horn, in addition to curses, prayers, blessings and traditional taboos as the custom of forbidding titled elders tapping palm wine, forbidding outsiders into the meetings of elders, all contribute to give the readers a new experience of reading the same language.



The beauty of Nature------- Frequent references to flora and fauna imply the proximity of the Ibos to nature. Here are examples from Things Fall Apart': Okonkwo's fame had grown like a bush fire in the harmattan and he "drank palm wine from morning till night and his eyes were red and fierce like the eyes of a rat when it was caught by the tail and dashed against the floor." "He felt like a drunken giant walking with the limbs of a mosquito." "Okonkwo felt as if he had been cast out of his clan like onto a dry sandy beach, panting." "Obierika's house is as busy as an ant hill." "The earth burned like hot coals."


Yet is also a metaphor for manliness, as in “Yam the king of crops was a man's crop" and Yam stood for manliness and he could “feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was very great man indeed.”




Post Colonial Literature

African literature exists in a historical continuum. For example, neo-colonialism prevails today in Africa because of the continuation. after "independence" of the economic, political and social practices established by colonialism. An analysis of the economic, political and social contradictions created by colonialism is, therefore, necessary in understanding and effectively countering neo-colonialism. For the contradictions created by colonialism are still realities in contemporary Africa's development.


Walter Rodney's How Europe Under-developed Africa analyzes the colonial relations of production .... and the economic and political contradictions .... that produced Africa's underdevelopment and continue to plague Africa today. Rodney, who describes colonialism as a "one armed bandit" claims that colonialism, more than anything else, underdeveloped Africa. According to him, colonialism laid the roots of neo-colonialism in Africa by creating Africa's economic dependency on the international capitalist system. The introduction of capitalist relations of production and distribution, ... for instance, the international trade commodity (ITC), exchange system and values created such dependency. Rodney (1981: 244) asserts that, "Previous African development was blunted, halved and turned back" by colonialism without offering anything of compensatory value.


Many works of African literature record the kind of exploitation, Rodney describes. In Mayombe, for example, the narrator notes that: "My land is rich in coffee, but my father was always a poor peasant... In Dembos, men lived wretchedly in the midst of wealth. Coffee was everywhere higging the trees, but they stole from us in the prices, sweat was paid for with a few worthless coins." (Pepetela)


Meka the protagonist in Ferdinand Oyono's the Old Man and the Medal, and the other peasants grew cocoa for export to France. In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, the opening of a trading post and selling of yams, marks the beginning and entrenchment of the capitalist money economy. Similarly, in Mongo Betis Mission to Kala, the poor Christ of Bomba and King Lazarus, the production of cocoa for export marks the beginning of an international capitalist economic order, so detrimental to Africa. Mono-culture, "introduced by colonialism made the African producer helpless in the face of capitalism manoeuvres. There was little development of local industry (a trend that persists in contemporary Africa). In, I will Marry When I Want, Gicaamba says: I would not mind, son of Gathoni,

If after selling away our labor,

Our village benefitted.

But look now at this village!

There is no property there is no wealth.


Rodney writes that, "Roads were built to make business possible," and argues that, "any catering to African interests was purely accidental." For instance, in Mongo Beti's Remember Reuben, the colonial road in Ekoudom is a symbolic means of the oppressive exploitation of the African. The narrator says that, "The road was a world apart from ours, and it was chance alone which had made it brush." Again he says that, "The road was a world apart certainly not by any wish of ours..." (1980). In Ferdinand Oyono's the Old Man and the Medal, the road constructed by forced black labour, symbolizes the visible exploitative means linking Africa to Europe. Rodney notes also that the social services in colonial Africa reflected the pattern of domination geared towards the well-being of the settlers. In Mayombe the narrator says:

You earn twenty escudos a day, for chopping down trees with an axe And how much does the boss earn for cach tree ? A pile. What does the boss do to earn this money? Nothing, nothing... so, how can he earn many thousands a day and give you twenty escudos ? What right has he? This is colonialist exploitation.


What the narrator notes above, claims Rodney, is what resulted in the underdevelopment of Africa.

Rodney observes that the African dependency upon the European also ultimately produced neocolonial class stratification and Africans who manipulated the colonial economic structures for their own benefit. In Mission to Kala, the colonial authorities nominate the chief of Vimili who goes on to live an opulent life at the expense of the people.


The colonial administration (who had nominated him in the first place) buttered him up. In return, he obeyed their commands, like a robot and knew they would not throw him out. In the days of the forced labour gangs he had been feared by everyone because he betrayed fugitives to the authorities and acted as an informer. He used our traditional tribal hierarchy as a vehicle for his underhand intrigues and flouted our laws and customs when he no longer needed them. (Beti)


Like the chief of Kala, he works in league with the colonial administrators to exploit the local society. Medza's father also becomes rich from collecting money and livestock from his insolvent debtors. He is, to Medza, an epitome of the successful grafting of Western hypocrisy and commercial materialism into a first rate African intelligence. This class of petty accumulators and the educated black people form the basis of neocolonialism. They are the progenitors of characters like Critutu uila. Gataanguru and Kinauuha Wa Gatheera in Ngugi's Devil on the Cross, the corrupt civil servant, Obi Okonkwo, in Achebe's No purely Longer at Ease, the honorable M.A. Nanga "the bush politician" and the young intellectual, Odill, in Achebe's A Man of the People, the railway freight clerk in Arman's, The Beautiful Ones are not yet born, and Ahab Kioi Wa Kanoru and Ikuua Wa Ndikita in Ngugi's I will Marry- When I Want.


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