Achebe Africa’s precolonial past were biased and influenced

Achebe reveals the complexity of the Igbo culture and how cultural
misinterpretation between the colonialists and the Igbo people occurred both
ways. By showing the cultural misunderstanding and ethnocentrism of the European
colonizers, Achebe postulates that the accounts of Africa’s precolonial past were
biased and influenced by the conventional image imposed by the colonizers. Achebe
constructed Okonkwo to establish a typical example of what a “great man” is
considered in an Igbo society. By using a protagonist who is dedicated to the
traditions of their religion, Achebe could contrast Christianity with that of
the Igbo faith and thus show how they conflicted when neither side was willing
to adapt to change. However, Okonkwo is the only clansman to reject Christianity
for fear of what it may do to Umuofia, and essentially stops the progression of
the clan he believed to be saving. One of Achebe’s ultimate goals was to
produce an accurate representation of what the African culture was before colonization
and how the European interpretations may have been an inaccurate
representation. Reverend Smith unjustifiably sees
the Africans as “heathens,” and the Igbo brand the Christians as
“foolish.” Although it may appear that the intention of Achebe’s novel
was to undermine colonists culture and show how destructive it is to remove and
force a new heritage on a sophisticated society, he acknowledges that both the
Igbo and colonials needed to strive for mutual understanding and acceptance. Achebe’s
acknowledgment of this is shown through Mr Brown and Akunna’s attempts to “learn
about each other’s beliefs,” even though “neither of them succeeded in
converting the other”. Achebe’s understanding of the English language and
literary construct is astounding, but by writing his novel in English must have
been difficult because the greater half of the text is spent expressing Igbo
culture, which is incredibly difficult considering the complexities of the
unfamiliar heritage, unheard of by most of the Western population. In view of the fact that one of Achebe’s focus points is
to confront this lack of understanding between the Igbo and colonialist
culture; In the novel, the Igbo ask how the “white man” could call Igbo
cultures bad when they don’t speak the Igbo language. Achebe solves this
problem by incorporating Igbo language and concepts into English text, meaning he
can express their language and heritage. Achebe goes a long way to join these
two opposing cultures. The Igbo language is incorporated in the text almost
seamlessly by a way in which the reader understands the meaning of most Igbo
words purely by context, and hence makes it easier for the readers to adapt to
a new culture.  

 

Achebe uses a stanza from William Butler’s “the Second Coming” as
an epigraph of his novel, thus explaining the title and acting as a brief
indication of the “mere anarchy” that unfolds when “the center cannot hold” and
things fall apart. The
hyperbolic and even contradictory nature of the passage’s language suggests the
inability of humankind to thwart this collapse. 

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