In the late nineteenth century, industrialization came to be seen as the hallmark of a progressive society. As Britain spread across the globe, bringing progress and Christianity to the masses, many ancient yet still viable societies suffered under the yoke of their new masters, facing an almost certain extinction of their cultures. The Igbo of Nigeria in particular struggled to retain their identity in the face of overwhelming British odds. The richness of the Igbo belief system and a tribal way of life that had existed for centuries was in danger of being whitewashed into nonexistence.
Many of the novels that began to come out about Nigeria, and the larger African continent, presented a view of the inhabitants as nothing more than primitives who could only benefit from the arrival of the white man. It wasnt until 1958 that a novel was published that would provide a more realistic portrayal of Nigerian tribal life and the values and morals inherent in that life, as well as the dangers and difficulties.
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Chinua Achebes Things Fall Apart is a stark portrayal of the beauty and violence that coexisted in the primitive Igbo culture and the wanton destruction and loss of identity that followed in the wake of British colonization in the late nineteenth century. Within the narrow confines of one-hundred and seventy pages, Achebe laid out a detailed study of tribal tradition, gender politics, and the unavoidable conflicts that arise when two seemingly different cultures meet for the first time.
The novel is centered on Okonkwo, a tribesman of the Umuofia. Raised by Unoka, a cowardly and debt-laden man who was unable to sufficiently support his family, Okonkwo determined that he would not take after his father and that he had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had no patience with his father. (Achebe 7). This lack of patience drove Okonkwo to take over and begin providing for his mother and siblings, even at a very young age. Stern and determined, Okonkwo became a man of harsh discipline and unyielding principles. Even though he built himself into a successful yam farmer, husband, and father, his true place was not cemented until the victorious wrestling match when he overthrew the wily (Achebe 7) Amalinze the Cat.
In the twenty years following the match Okonkwos fame had grown like a bush-fire in the harmattan (Achebe 7). He became a respected man of his tribe, with titles, wives, children, and many yams in his barn. Unfortunately for Okonkwo, his downfall was coming, in the form of a young man named Ikemefuna, who was brought back to the village as a potential sacrifice, in retribution for the killing of a village daughter.
Ikemefuna was given to Okonkwo to watch over, and over the course of several years,
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