Narrate the role of family, community and culture in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. B.A. Honours Examinations 2021 (Under CBCS Pattern) Semester – V Subject: ENGLISH Paper : C 11-T Postcolonial Literatures
Chinua Achebe in his epoch-making novel, THINGS FALL APART portrays the role of family, community and culture in African context with a stark reaction to the prior portrayals made by ‘Eurocentric’ writers presenting Africa as a ‘dark continent’ which requires the ‘civilized’ Europeans to ‘enlighten’ it as found in Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness. he Heart of Darknessemerged in opposition to a long history of European misrepresentations of Africa. The novel answered a need for African stories told from an African perspective where the role of family, community and culture becomes crucial.
The events in Things Fall Apart take place at the end of the nineteenth century and in the early part of the twentieth century portraying role of family and community. Achebe presents African society as democratic one where its own kind of justice prevails. In the novel, Things Fall Apart, the families play different roles than those of today’s families. The men, women, and children all had various chores and activities that people do not do today. Males were more dominant in their society. Okonkwo’s relationship with his family is of complete dictatorship. He is the man of the house and the head of the family who ultimately runs the household. His three wives are there to make food and raise his children. Birth, marriage and burial are considered the three most important family events in most cultures, and Igboland is not an exception to that. Igbo society viewed twins as a bad omen sent by the “Gods.” They considered twins as supernatural beings that could bring devastation upon society. According to Achebe, “twins were put in earthenware pots and thrown away in the forest” (Achebe, 1994, p. 61). Achebe’s Igbo system adopts an effective and efficient system of justice. This is observed in chapter ten of Things Fall Apart, where the village holds a ceremonial gathering to administer justice.
Achebe’s Igbo society has a highly developed system of religion which worked as efficiently as the Christian religion. Both Christianity and the Igbo religion approve morality, honesty, straightforwardness and respect for the God. Both systems have only one Supreme God, Chukwu for the Igbo. Both gods have messengers on earth, Christ for the Christians and the wooden idols for the Igbo. Both religions support humility. Both gods are vengeful only when they are disregarded.
The Igbo community has respect and right to life. Consequently, killing members of one’s own clan or taking one’s own life is forbidden, even if advertently done. This is why Obuefi Ezeudu warns Okonkwo not to kill Ikemefuna and even when Okonkwo kills Ichie Ezeudu’s son unknowingly, Okonkwo was sent on exile. Thus, Obierika sees Okonkwo killing of Ikemefuna as a crime against the Earth. The Achebe’s Igbo society consequently admires equality between men and women. While men like Uzowulu who prefers to beat their wives even in pregnancy, they are reprimanded.
Things Fall Apart is an accurate portrayal of Igbo culture and people, written by Chinua Achebe, a man who was raised in an Igbo village. This includes their polytheistic religion, meaning that the Igbo worship many gods as opposed to just one, like many Western and Central Asian cultures do. Many different aspects of Igbo culture, which is an ancient African culture that encompasses polytheistic religion, father-son inheritance, farming traditions, and belief in evil spirits, are described in Things Fall Apart. The Igbo tribe is held together by traditional customs, religious ceremonies, social hierarchy, familial relationships, and a dependence on farming that ensures a successful harvest and healthy economy. The Igbo of Things Fall Apart are very much civilized in the sense that they accept limitations on individual conduct for the good of the tribe, and respect those of superior achievement and character. Achebe also celebrates the beauty of Igbo art, music and poetry in his Things Fall Apart. He portrays his Igbo culture and society which flourishes on the pillars of art, music and poetry. There are also many
gods. Among the Igbo, the art of conversation is regarded highly. Therefore, language is highly stylized by the use of fanciful and didactic proverbs so that points are made without inflicting pains on the listeners during conversations. This is why Achebe says that “proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten”.
Thus, Achebe presents the ‘real Africa’ with pure harmony and civilized decorum of family, community and culture of Africa before ‘the things fall apart’ by an onslaught of Euro-centrism.