Things Fall Apart Brief Analysis
Through the story of Okonkwo and his community, Achebe shows how local traditions and cultural practices in a sense fell apart in the new externally generated pressures that arose as a consequence of colonization. The story focuses on the tragic fall of Okonkwo, the protagonist, and the Igbo culture after the arrival of the colonialists. The story’s protagonist is a respected, famed, and influential leader within the Igbo community who reside in Umuofia, Eastern Nigeria. Advances made in telecommunication and transportation industries have been the major contributing factors to globalization. Globalization has witnessed an increased economic and cultural interdependence among countries. Globalization has witnessed the increased cross-border movement of services, technology, and capital between different national economies. The book ‘things fall apart’ shows the pre-colonial Igbo culture, as well as the changes it underwent on the arrival of the Europeans. This paper seeks to compare the main changes witnessed among the Igbo people during their time under colonial rule with the present-day impacts of globalization. The aim is to find out if the changes witnessed among the Igbo culture is reflected in present-day post-colonial countries in the era of globalization. This paper draws examples from ‘Things fall apart’ to show the prevalence of neo-colonialism in present post-colonial countries brought about by globalization.
In ‘things fall apart’, the arrival of the Europeans forces the Igbo people to adopt a new culture and religion. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Igbo people prayed to the oracles, gods, and believed in spirits2. They also prayed in caves where they believed the oracle existed. Achebe gives a sensitive and balanced portrait of the Igbo culture and belief system.
The arrival of the Europeans brings along missionaries who are intent at looking for Christian converts among the Igbo. A majority of the Europeans viewed African tribal and cultural concepts as barbaric. The missionaries construct a church place of worship within the village on land given to them by village elders. The missionaries are able to attract converts from the Igbo people like the weak and worthless men in the villages. Other villagers also begin to convert to Christianity (Bloom 2009, 83).
The changes witnessed within the Igbo culture can draw a parallel to present-day post-colonial countries. Globalization has witnessed the spread of new religious movements across post-colonial countries. Present-day cultural and religious practices in some post-colonial countries still get considered as primitive and not westernized. As citizens from foreign countries move to post-colonial countries, they carry along with their religious practices and beliefs with them. They seek to impact their religion on the natives they find in the post-colonial countries. The only difference is that it is not forceful and the post-colonial countries have freedom of choice of religion in the present-day era.
Another parallel of globalization that can be compared to ‘things fall apart’ is the introduction of technology. When Obierekwa, Okonkowo’s best friend pays a visit to him during his second year in exile in Manta, he recounts to him how a white man rode into his former village on a bicycle. Further, the novel Europeans arrive in an ‘iron horse’, a metaphor used to symbolize the mechanical and metal vehicles used by the white men that allowed them to travel fast and far than the accustomed walking employed by the Igbo people. The Europeans also have better rifles, which they use to shoot the Abame clan. Globalization has also allowed for advancements in technology in post-colonial countries. Globalization has witnessed the introduction of communication technology such as phones and the internet in post-colonial countries. Globalization has also witnessed the construction of highways and the introduction of modern vehicles in post-colonial countries. As the world globalizes, technology plays a massive impact on the interdependence among countries. Technology also played a vital role in the conquering of the Igbo by the white men. The introduction of technology in the present-day post-colonial countries gets used by foreign countries to exercise their political and economic control of these countries. These countries even use the very technology to spy on post-colonial countries.
The impact of the white man on the government and social institution of the Igbo people in ‘things fall apart’ can draw parallels to the impact of globalization on post-colonial countries in the present era. Achebe gives us a concise portrait of the social organization and social structure of the Igbo people on several levels. It is clear that the town has no chief as a ruler but it has the general association and assembly of all men. The Igbo people had a primitive democracy that worked for them. From the narrative, we learn that yams were the staple food of the local people, and having large quantities of them in storage indicated prosperity and wealth. The author also reveals that Umuofia prized justice and never waged conquest wars. A high level of social mobility is also depicted in the narrative. When the Europeans arrived in Umuofia, they went ahead to introduce their own government and build a court system, which they used to enforce their laws and maintain order6. They built a court system where the district commissioner presided over cases. They used their newly created institutions to control the Igbo. The white men build a prison where they lock up the Igbo people who are defiant to their ideas. This can be compared to the effect of globalization on post-colonial countries in the present-era. As countries become more interdependent, foreign countries seek to establish their policies using underhand methods and economic initiatives in post-colonial countries. They enter into partnerships with post-colonial countries for their long-run benefit while seeking to exploit post-colonial countries. Foreign countries even build military bases in post-colonial countries where they conduct their training and test their new military ware.
The impact of colonialism on the Igbo people draws parallels to the present-day globalization which has contributed to neo-colonialism in some post-colonial countries. The use of technology, control of social and government institutions as well as eroding cultural and religious beliefs of the Igbo compares to the effects of neo-colonialism. Neo-colonialism brought about by rapid globalization has witnessed foreign countries exercise economic and political control of post-colonial countries without exerting the force witnessed in ‘things fall apart’
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