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Themes in Things Fall Apart
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Language is a theme in this novel. It has been used to demonstrate the imaginative, formal way of communication of the people of Igbo. The writer’s often use of Igbo words shows that it is a language that is a bit complex to be translated into English. Similarly, thisAfrican culture cannot be compared with the structure of the European values. Africa has a variety of languages; this is clearly shown by the writer’s inclusion of folk tales, songs and proverbs that have been translated from Igbo language. He has been able to capture and express the rhythms, cadences, structures and beauty of African languages. He uses English to write this novel, because he intended it to be read across the world. Therefore, he was able to emend and critique Africa’s portrait that had been painted by writers during the colonial era. Such writers had portrayed Africa as an incomprehensible continent(Bernth, 2003).
Change is another evident theme. It shows a society on the verge of transformation. Though, the reality of this change affects some characters, and if change should prevail more than tradition, it involves the personal status.Okonkwo is so held to his traditional values and is opposed to any kind of change.He resists new religious and political orders; he feels these orders are not in a manlyway, and therefore, he does not consent to them. He is afraid of losing his public status and that is why he is opposed to the change. The outcasts in the community embrace the Christian teachings, as they find to refuge from the harsh traditional laws that really undermined them. In the Christianity, the converts have an elevated status which they really enjoy. Most of the outcasts adapt the Christian values easily, since they were not dehumanizing. Generally, the villagers are in a dilemma of resisting and embracing the change. Though, most of the Africans are excited about the new techniques and opportunities that the white men bring. The villagers graduallydispense off the long held traditions and cultural ways for the modern ones(Angelina, 2003)..
The issue of gender is another strong theme in the novel. In the African society, as depicted by the writer, a child belongs to the father, once the father disciplines the child through caning, it should look for the protection from the mother. A good child belongs to the father, but the child that seems like a failure in the society belongs to the mother. Women have been undermined all through the novel. They have not been mentioned frequently, and this shows the low positions that they hold in the society. Their main role is bearing children and performing other household chores only. A man’s wealth was also measured by the number of wives he had; this further describes women as the men’s property. Boys were really valued in the African society more than girls. Women who gave birth to girls only were really looked down upon.There is so much male chauvinism in the novel, as the decisions and communal roles are only allocated to the men. Masculinity is greatly valued in this society and it is viewed in terms of actions and aggression. If a man was weak like Okonkwo’s father he appeared womanly (Bernth, 2003).
Criticism of the Novel Things Fall Apart
The political and social aspects in the novel have been criticized by some critiques. The Igbo society is confronted with the overpowering and intrusive nature of the Western beliefs. A belligerent civilization, out of ethnocentrism and sheer arrogance invades another culture. One issue that is criticized is, whether Okonkwo is in clear terms with the issues of Umuofiaor is an embodiment of the ethics of this society. This issue focuses on his killing of the small boy Ikemefuna. Critics have argued that the killing was not right, as it was against the norms of the society. Some critics also argue that the use of a tragic hero and the plot of the novel are similar to a certain Greek tragedy. The writer’s choice to use English to write the novel has been complimented by the certain critics.Nevertheless, most readers view the novel as exemplary, and it has, therefore, achieved a worldwide status (Gordon, 2011).
The novel tries to recreate the cultural, religious and social structure of the Igbo society before the colonization and the spread of Christianity. The novel depicts tensions and conflicts within the society, as well as the transformation it undergoes after introduction of Christianity and the colonial rule. The novel can be summarized in three parts. Part one portrays the way of life in Igbo before the colonial invasion. The second part shows the onset of the white settlers and the arrival of the missionaries. The final part is a recount of colonial control in this part of Nigeria. The people of Umuofia are not ready to protect their native land from the invasion of the Europeans. Okonkwo advocates for war against the settlers, but none of his tribesmen is willing to join. He despairs and hangs himself ruining his huge reputation. This shows that the people of Igbo have yielded to the British rule and their way of doing things and are ready to discard their own traditions and cultures. The writer shows that Africans had their own system of governance; they also had shrines where they conducted their religious activities (Angelina, 2003). The writer strongly refutes the mistaken belief that Africa is a dark continent without its own societal norms and values.