Picking Up The Pieces- An analytical look at why t
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Picking Up The Pieces- An analytical look at why the village
Picking Up The Pieces
An analytical look at why the village of Umofia fell apart
Faith has always been a guiding force in man’s life. Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is a story that describes the effects of a new Christian religion in a tribal village of Africa. The tribe has their own language, known as Obi, a dignified culture and a value system that has continued for many years as they trace back into their ancestry. Yet, voids that this culture can no longer fill for modern tribesmen enable white missionaries to intrude upon this system and convert many of the tribe’s younger members to the Christian faith. The tribal system falls apart because younger members are unable to remember persons of the past, unable to relate to violence when they have lived in safety and peace and are uninterested in a faith that does not fulfill their needs for music, joy and love, instead of discipline of a higher being.
Okonkwo, the protagonist of the story, could remember to “another time” when children, like his own son Nwoye, were not lazy. He could also remember the indolence of his own father, Unoka, and that his father had not received any titles as a clansman. He was determined to be a respected farmer of yams to ward off the shame of his unsuccessful and dishonorable father.
Fortunately, among these people a man was judged by
his worth and not according to the worth of his father...
As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could
eat with kings. Okonkwo had clearly washed his hands
and so he ate with kings and elders. (page 8)
This was Okonkwo’s motive in life and so he remained prosperous throughout his life and worked hard to prove to others that he was not the same man as his father. Unfortunately, this was not the feeling shared by many in the clan and Okonkwo, in trying to make-up for his father’s mistakes, took on the responsibilities of an old man as a young boy and had the mind set of an elder in the community because as was stated, those were the people he ate his meals with and held his discussions with. Okonkwo’s own son, Nwoye, did not have the same work ethic and was not working to prove his manhood to the rest of the village. Therefore, for Okonkwo to expect hard work ethics of his son by instinct was unrealistic, because Okonkwo’s work ethic was certainly not a genetic result either. This work ethic however is a central value of the community and when younger members of the generation do not feel as though they are responsible for the tribe’s continued existence then they may not feel as though an active participation in village life is necessary. On the other hand, perhaps Okonkwo’s work ethic was much stronger than the normal that is necessary for the tribe to continue to flourish and he beats Nwoye forgiving only the minimum amount of work expected of him. Perhaps it is the feeling of failure that turns a member of the tribe like Nwoye to Christianity. Perhaps he felt that he would be an inadequate member and would be unable meet the standards necessary for the tribe to succeed and so he turned to the missionaries who were accepting of everyone, even those who had been officially exiled from the village.
Though Okonkwo’s father had been lazy, he had always been an encouraging father and assured his son that he would succeed. Early on evidence of this kind of support is suggested.
Do not despair. I know you will not despair
You have a manly and a proud heart. A proud
heart can survive a general failure because such
a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult
and more bitter when a man fails alone.(p.24-25)
However it is easy to recognize that in washing his hands completely of his father’s ways Okonkwo may have also washed away the values of gentleness, supporting the ones near to him and the love of rest and time to relax. This leads to another important observation leading to the fall of the clan. Okonkwo’s inability to see
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African Writers Series, Postcolonial literature, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, Christianity, God
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