Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart As A Response To The European Novels With The Negative Image Of Africa

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During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was the Age of Imperialism, or also known as the “Scramble for Africa”. The Europeans saw Africa as vulnerable and weak, so they easily invaded the villages and deprived them of their resources. The novel, Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, is written in response to European novels who characterized Africans as uneducated savages, who needed to be “saved” from European colonization. The novel sheds light on the Igbo society balancing with the dark times which it faced, and describes the effects that European colonization had on Umuofia from an African perspective, therefore, the European novels are deceptive and out of place. The interaction between Whites and the Igbo people wasn’t exactly peaceful which foreshadows the beginning of slavery. European colonization did impact the Igbo society however many ways, however, Europeans like Joseph Conrad, misinterpret and dehumanize Africans by presenting a European bias stereotypical image of the African society. The novel, Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, is a successful counter image to that of Conrad and other Europeans, because Achebe highlights the Igbo culture, shows strong emotions from the characters, and illustrates the government.

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Throughout the novel, Achebe describes events that happen in their daily lives. In part three, the white man’s government started to play a vital role in the book, not only because of its court and court messengers but also with its prison and executions. Achebe has an ironic tone because he describes it as if Umuofia had never experienced a controlled government. Achebe wanted to demonstrate that the Igbo culture had developed into a highly advanced society, religion, and justice system way before the Europeans arrived. This event contradicts the European’s perspectives because they certainly did not need help from the Europeans. The “help” that the Igbo people got from the Direct Commissioner wasn’t benefiting them at all, but only benefiting Europe. The Direct Commissioner and its Government was manipulative and oppressive, “We shall not do you any harm” but the court messengers counter that by telling the Umuofia people that if the six men don’t pay the fine then they will be hanged. The main character, Okonkwo, shows great emotion while using the metaphor “the white man has put a knife on the things that have held us together and we have fallen apart”. This illustrates that the Europeans had interrupted all life in Umuofia. Once the white man’s government arrived in Umuofia, everyone knew that “Umuofia had indeed changed” families were separated, the people lost their will to fight back, and a new government would change what was keeping the village together, “and we have fallen apart”. When the Europeans settled in Africa, their culture clashed with the Igbos and threatened a change. Achebe fully blames the white man’s government for causing a disruption to their society. Achebe educated readers and responded back to European novels by explaining what happened in Umuofia from an African perspective rather than just from the European side. It is important to hear both sides of the story, however, because of history, it’s evident that Europeans took over Africa for their own good and they create stereotypes for people all over the world to judge Africans. Things Fall Apart, successfully changed the minds of people around the world to make them appreciate Africa and its people.

The European novels that Achebe responded to were written to humiliate Africa and its people because they believed they were superior over Africa. For example, in the Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, it is clear that Europeans were prejudice over Africans. Conrad says, “…projecting the image of Africa as ‘the other world’…” the Europeans were quick to judge that the Africans were at a disadvantaged because they couldn’t speak English. Conrad dehumanizes Africans by saying they are illiterate animals. The novel, Things Fall Apart, is in contrast to the Heart of Darkness because Conrad believes that Africans are uncivilized. The current President of the United States, Donald Trump, is best known for degrading other countries but his own. Trump, referring to Africans as lazy, makes the comment “most of these African countries ought to be recolonized again for another 100 years because they know nothing about leadership and self governance”. Trump is on the same page as Conrad when implying that Africa needs an enlightenment from Europe. Trump humiliates Africa as a whole by saying “all these shithole countries”, this language coming from a President suggests that maybe he hasn’t read Things Fall Apart, because he clearly doesn’t know the reality Africans face.

In the novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe successfully points out the culture and government system which achieves his purpose in countering Europeans, like Joseph Conrad, and anyone else who had a negative image on the African society. Hearing different sides of the story can eliminate a misinterpretation and avoids judgement without having all the facts. People worldwide and especially European novelists fail at giving the correct image of Africa because most are prejudice. Achebe shares the story of the Igbo society and properly discusses the positive and negatives of European colonization.

14 May 2021

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