Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

04 Feb 2011

(Novel) Things Fall Apart by: Chinua Achebe

(Reaction) Progress by: Rafael Conejos

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Humanity, regardless of race and gender has either consciously or unconsciously strived for one universal action; progress. In Things Fall Apart the reader is introduced to a healthy evolving society that rewards hard working by supplementing it with "titles" of honor to be symbols of inspiration for their fellow neighbors. The protagonist Okonkwo, amidst his character flaw of uncontrollable violence and bad chi, represents the best of these qualities by being someone who fears "failure and of weakness", someone who strives for "his own strength and success", by cultivating his crops to feed his family, acting as an inspiration to his children and as a warrior ready to fight for the well being of Umuofia.

Everything though begins to "fall apart" when the British arrive and start preaching that Okonkwo and his peoples' customs of polytheism and superstitious beliefs are the markings of individuals dominated by ignorance. The white men commit this violent generalization, because of the inadequacy of the people of Umuofia to meet their set of standards to what foregrounds the proper mindset and actions of a civilized human being.

These men believe that they would be the catalyst that would bring about progress within Umuofia, yet even before their arrival, Obierika had already begun questioning the rationality of their customs when Okonkwo was exiled for an accident by pondering the question: "Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently?" This small question of "why?" synthesizes that Obierika and his people are capable of questioning and sooner or later changing their ways for the sake of progress.

For the sake of progress, the people of Umuofia realized that there were benefits to the trade and the new religion the English brought to their land. Although the people of Umuofia suffered in the end, for their choice to allow them to stay and preach, even they began to notice "...a growing feeling that there might be something in it after all." With that said, one cannot say they were "ignorant" if they realized the potential value of what the English had to offer.

In the end, it would be the cultural differences of the two races that helped play the cause of most of the violence, but amongst all the bloodshed, who was the barbarian? After Enoch committed "one of the greatest crimes a man could commit," by killing an ancestral spirit, "Umuofia was thrown into confusion." The people decide to burn the church, yet spared Mr. Brown's life. It is also in this scene when Ajofia set the grounds for their understanding of the conflicting nature of their two cultures by concluding that both saw each other as "foolish because the other does not know [his own] ways." This understanding shows that the people of Umuofia wished not to go to war to begin with and instead acted like true honorable defenders of their land, with actions not so different from that of the valiant English Knight. In reprisal, the English forced them to accept their beliefs and system of society by imposing harsh treatment to those who went against it.

A culture should not be judged by biased comparison, but by the common human elements that help bind one another. In the end, it was the desire for progress that polluted the minds of both parties that lead to why things fell apart.


Still mulling it over.

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