Chinua Achebes Things Fall Apart shows a remarkable cultural clash between the Igbo and the western cultures that purportedly invaded the community to civilize them. Various characters in the novel respond differently to the introduction of the western ways of life into the Igbo community. A substantial number of people led by Okonkwo oppose the erosion of the traditions and a subsequent alteration of their pre-existing system of authority and the position that the traditional leaders held in providing a sense of direction to everyone (Anyadike, Chima, and Kehinde 220). Okonkwo is one of the characters who remain adamantly defiant against the establishment of the western culture among the Igbo. The novel describes Okonkwo as a fierce warrior and darling of his village, not until the whites come and succeeds in undercutting his influence. Okonkwo inadvertently tries to resist the impact of the whites and even sets a confrontation against them, but the might of the gun makes him submit later and commit suicide (Achebe 107). He cannot stand the sight of a foreigner establishing very fast and extending a significant influence over his people. Okonkwo is a bitter man, distraught with the change in the Igbo traditional ways and brainwashes of his people to embrace the western culture in dressing, religion, and administration.
According to Okonkwo, the traditional life of the Igbo community to which he belongs is perfect and in harmony before the white man invades it. If anything, he perceives it somewhat arrogant for a foreigner to enter an orderly culture and use various ways including destroying the gods that the community had historically relied on as a source of hope and protection (Anyadike, Chima, and Kehinde 222). Even without the western cultural influence, Okonkwo considered his village, Umuofia to have a stable system of government replete with democracy and tolerance. He perceived the establishment of the white authorities in Umuofia village as a ridicule of the sovereignty of the people and an attempt to gag them with a system they did not quite understand. According to him, Umuofia did not require kings or imperial chiefs to be stable. Their traditions including sharing out harvests amongst themselves were an adequate expression of civility (Achebe 73). He is entirely at odds with the whites who to him were hostile invaders who lacked an understanding of the Igbo traditions. Contrary to his perception of the lack of necessity for kings and a leader, the Whites insisted that there needed to be some power hierarchy which would create political order. This presented a protracted contention between Okonkwo and the western civilization.
Before the coming of the whites into Umuofia, Okonkwo is not only known as a brave man who has fought and won several wars with the enemies, but also someone does not like the feeling of weakness. In fact in the novel, he decries the inabilities of his father, Unoka whose lifestyle he did not want to follow (Hawker 85). The white civilization presented a unique challenge to Okonkwos belief in his bravery. The whites that enter Umuofia not only have the gun but are also ready to use them against the locals who seem adamant to the change. Okonkwo becomes a victim of the white supremacy when he is arrested and jailed. He cannot withstand the feeling of loss as a formerly respected man in the village. The white authority in Umuofia threatens to undercut Okonkwos glory as a warrior and entirely kill dissenting voices thus turning honorable to novices. Okonkwo cannot hold this experience. At one point, he murders a colonial official in what he believes is a daring move to save his tribe from adverse influence, but he does not succeed as he is arrested and imprisoned. After prison, he becomes convinced of the white determination to entrench their rule over the community and decides to commit suicide.
Okonkwo is very intolerant of anything that relates to the white culture, not even their religion. He causes tension in his homestead when he realizes that his son, Nwoye has converted to Christianity. According to him, Christianity was not acceptable since it went against their traditions and a way that the whites used to silence the people as they took away their valuable resources and destroyed their social values that united them (Hawker 74). Although Nwoye had converted to Christianity, the fury of his father and his belief that the white religion was a brainwash made him practice it in secret. Achebe writes, Although Nwoye had been attracted to the new faith from the very first day, he keeps it secret. He dared not to go too near the missionaries for fear of his father (Achebe 149). According to Okonkwo, embracing Christianity was like selling out ones faith and taking up a retrogressive religion that would only destroy an otherwise socially stable community. Seeing churches mushrooming in the village, Okonkwo could not help but become even more agitated by the white culture. He opposed the white attempt of portraying their traditional gods as vanity and also destroying the sacred grave. The aggression of the whites against the conventional Igbo religions was unforgivable. He set out to reclaim their sense of identity, but he becomes estranged and losses the fight.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Place of publication not identified: Stellar Classics, 2013. Print.
Anyadike, Chima, and Kehinde A. Ayoola. Blazing the Path: Fifty Years of Things Fall Apart. Ibadan, Nigeria: HEBN Publishers, 2012. Print.
Hawker, Louise. Colonialism in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Farmington Hills, Mich: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Print.
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