The Theme of Cultural Conflict in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebeis

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is recognized as one of the most influential books in African literature by many critics and scholars. It brought in the limelight the narrative of the “Dark Continent” through an African intellectual’s expression, who used art to reveal the conflict between Western Christianity and African values. The book’s central theme is the cultural conflict caused by the expansion of the Europeans into Africa, and the author shares his idea through the protagonist called Okonkwo.

Achebe guides the readers through the complexities of the Igbo culture of the pre-expansion times, its deep sense of justice, rules, and its harmful machismo and nobility. For instance, the description of people’s dedication to working hard for the tribe’s prosperity is combined with the types of activities Igbo people performed (Achebe 32). It is also interesting to see the traditional events held by the tribe, such as the Week of Peace, during which neighbors came together, drank palm wine, and avoided any work (Achebe 32). These cultural aspects demonstrate that the Igbo people were industrious in their activities and had developed certain customs which they diligently observed. The tribe’s social and political life was forced to change when the British came to their lands.

The book portrays the gradual process of how the Europeans entered the African communities and expanded their influence, which eventually had a significant impact on the local cultures. For example, when the missionaries came to Mbanta and asked for a place to build their Church, the natives did not take them seriously, but soon more people began to convert (Achebe 149). This situation is similar to the one which happened in Ancient Ghana when Berbers introduced Islam to the region. The country’s rulers did not object to the activity of Muslims and continued to worship their Gods, yet, over time, Islam gained its status as a religion widely practiced by the locals (Boahen 60). Such developments often cause various cultural conflicts, and the Igboland inhabitants were also affected by them. For example, Okonkwo could not adapt to the changes introduced by the British rule as they went against the tribe’s culture (Achebe 176). Moreover, the pressure from the foreigners forced people to leave Igboland and made it impossible to preserve their values and improve lives in the region.

The main impact of colonization described in the novel is the intervention in the tribal structure, which caused social and cultural humiliation in thriving tribes and led to their weakening. This marked a shift in power from the local people towards the Europeans who, after establishing their Church, continued to expand and founded other institutions, including schools and the courthouse. For instance, when Okonkwo and his men decided to talk to the District Commissioner and voice their concerns, they were simply captured and taken into the guardroom (Achebe 194). This example demonstrates the fact that through the gradual expansion of their influence, Europeans were able to take control over the local tribes and make them unable to resist. Thus, the main effects of colonialism, discussed in the book, are the replacement of the native political system with the European one and the subsequent loss of power by the local African tribes.

The author reveals how variations exist in the African culture and how they ignite conflicts. The arguments, discussions, and expositions are highly convincing because Achebe uses relevant and practical African and British examples familiar to an average reader. Achebe’s novel highlights the devastating consequences of expansion from the cultural and societal perspectives. The discussion is reinforced and delivered powerfully through the clarity of diction and intentional use of short sayings and profound proverbs. The book is presented in an organized and logical way, making it easy for a reader to comprehend.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Anchor Books, 1994.

Boahen, Albert Adu. Topics in West African History: The Sudanese States and Empires. Longmans, 1966.

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