From a direct interpretation of the title Things Fall Apart, it is a depiction of a tragedy. It is hard for a book about things falling apart to have a happy ending. This title by Chinua Achebe is borrowed from a line of the poem by William Butler Yeats, “The Second coming.” The significance of it is that of the second coming of Christ. In the first coming, Christ entered the world in the incarnation by being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. The apostle creed directs that He shall come the second time “to judge the living and the dead (Say 1).Before this second coming there is supposed to be misfortunes and adversities in the world. Achebe derives the title from the poem together with its significance to write about the arrival of British Colonialism who came first to spread Christianity but instead caused chaos as they come into conflict with African traditions. This title is referenced in Chapter 20 in a conversation between the main character, Okonkwo and his friend Obierika about the invasion of the white man in their community. Obierika says, “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peacefully with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan no longer acts like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together, and we have fallen apart” (Chinua 106).A good example of things fallen apart because of the destruction of their religion is when Enoch unmasks an Egwugwu which leads to anarchic clash in the village and consequently Okonkwo’s suicide. The title explains how western audiences perceived African society as primitive and weak society and from that brought misfortunes in their culture. His aim was to present African experience by allowing them to tell their side of the story before it could be mistold.
The narrator gives three types of narrations with different viewpoints. One specific type the narrator provides a detailed view is that of Things Fall Apart by focusing on Okonkwo, but he generally provides insights into many characters’ thoughts. The novel takes time to focus on different characters like Obierika, Ekwefi, and Ikemefuna which allows the reader to get dimensionality through accessing internal thoughts of different characters. The narrator uses first person point of view to tell stories that happened to the character directly, and this is through letting the characters speak. The narrator also uses the second person point of view to address us directly and third person point of view to display the events of the story from multiple vantage points with the main objective of interjecting figurative language and Igbo vocabulary to suggest an underlying purpose. There is no dominant point of view in the novel, and this allows the reader to shift viewpoints to consider all sides of the conflicts and reach a concrete conclusion of the outcomes. As readers, we get a lot of details from the novel such that we can arrive at our own conclusion by accessing the characters and events using our own judgment and critical skills.
The narrate reveals important values by presenting disobedience cases that were punished. This way we are able to gain insight that the narrator holds the values of the Igbo culture important. The values are based on principles of respect, honor and protection of the good things in the Igbo culture which is practically similar to all the cultures around the world. The narrator obeys the system of rules that subscribe values of the Igbo culture. One of these values is the value of life. The narrator show this importance by showing that taking another life means a life should be sacrificed to replace the value of the life lost as seen with the execution of Ikemefuna for the murder of Udo’s wife. The narrator also shows that traditions and customs of culture should be respected. Okonkwo was punished for failing to show respect towards the week of peace. Another value is respect of other property by maintaining that no one can claim another’s property without proof of his or her entitlement or permission. Hard work is also valued as seen with Okwonko resenting his father for being lazy.
The novel end with District Commissioner musing about his next book and the author uses the idea to show the impacts of the white Europeans’ colonialism in Africa and just how these European were unable to comprehend them thus need for more narration since there was still much more to include. The commissioner says that Okonkwo’s tragedy would make an interesting paragraph and the narrate presents this irony to show how little the commissioner understand the culture. The way the commissioner treats Okonkwo’s death is author’s viewpoint of how Europeans will inevitably treat the subject the same way. Achebe tells that a book like “The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger,” the one the commissioner plans to write, will reveal about the colonialists rather that their subjects. The commissioner thinks that he has achieved pacification of the tribe, but his ignorance has only increased unrest and lack of peace to these tribes. The whole idea of ending the novel this way is to present the need to understand cultures and treat them accordingly and most importantly accept the treat every act of that was intended to oppose colonialism with seriousness.
The author displays the ignorance of the western beliefs as phrased in the title ‘primitive Tribes.’ He shows how these western beliefs perceive the African tribes as primitive which is not true and hence have no true understanding of this culture. Achebe’s perception of Okonkwo is an inevitable fight for betrayal of the white man. Okonkwo chooses suicide rather than white man’s way which has only broken his people. The betrayal of his son and his people pushes him to despair and the author respects this by his implication that Okonkwo story is not something to be deemed to an entertaining reading as the commissioner puts it. Author’s perception on People of Umuofia is a society with values and which has been taken advantage of in the name of developing them, but the reality is a unique form of diversity that needs to be understood. He reveals how the destruction of tribal social institution and traditions have created voids within the African cultures and the negatives results are still felt today. Achebe depicts the social and psychological damage the westerns rough to the African society by imposing their Western customs and values. He does not dismiss the good things that white brought to Africa but focuses on the detrimental effects that brought more harm than good. He is more of an advocate of African freedom from colonization. This perception is portrayed in his word on chapter seven of the novel when describing the arrival of the colonizers from Britain. He wrote, “And at last the locusts did descend. They settled on every tree and on every blade of grass; they settled on the roofs and covered the bare ground, Might tree branches broke away under them” (Chinua 56).These words enable us to read his mind how he perceived the colonizers and the destruction they brought along.
Achebe is successful to show the effects of colonialism in the culture of Igbo. The decision of the Igbo people to follow Christianity to ran away from the suffering they had incurred from their own religion was wise but with unpredicted hardships that would come along in the long run. The author shows how Igbo society stood to benefit from schools and other smaller things like bicycle that the white people came with but attacks the wrong approaches of these white missionaries in their attempt to help Igbo society. The westerners were wrong to have the attitude towards the Igbo people to totally submit and have gratitude from them. They thought that because they were more educated, they were better entitled to ruling Umuofia and not Igbo and from that, they belittled the status of Igbo. Achebe can explore the imperfections of the Igbo culture and its strengths as well, but the main aim is to display the hostile approach of the white missionaries.
Chinua, Achebe. “Things fall apart.” (1958).
Say, Amen We. “The Apostles’ Creed.” (1963).