Sufyan clinging to the earth, half coming out,

Sufyan Almahameed

Dr. Majed

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January 8, 2018

Pre and Post-Colonialism in Things Fall Apart

          The novel Things Fall Apart is
written by Chinua Achebe who is considered the father of African
literature in 1958. He was born in 16 November 1930 and raised by his parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria. Achebe excelled at school and won a
scholarship to study medicine but he changed his studies to English literature.
(Wikipedia). Achebe
decided to write this literary work as a reaction to Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart
of Darkness because Conrad depicted the African people as savages, harmful
and uncivilized. The protagonist, Marlow, describes all the natives he meets in
Africa as savages, comparing them to animals or the wilderness of the jungle
itself as shown here: “Black
shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees leaning against the trunks,
clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light”
(Conrad 17). So in my paper I will show how the reaction comes violently by
Achebe when he talks about the African culture, rituals, customs and the
democratic society before the colonization comes by Europeans and how the
society is totally different after that invasion.

Chinua Achebe divides his novel into three parts and in each part he
talks about an issue regarding the African culture before and after the
colonization. The protagonist (Okonkwo) is directly presented in the first part
in which all events revolve around him in the fictional village which is
Umuofia. But Achebe presents us Igbo society that formed the major tribe in
Africa as stated by Ohadike:


Igbo (or Ibo) people form one of the largest ethnic group in Africa, with about
15 million living in Nigeria and another million living outside .Their farming
communities are broadly situated between the Niger River in the west and the
cross River in the east, stretching from delta swampland near the southern
coast through tropical rain forest to open grasslands to the north. (1)

he is very proud due to the major members of this tribe having self reliance
like Okoye and Okonkwo since Okonkwo does not inherit anything from his
father.  Growing up Okonkwo’s    
father had very little pride. He was a poor man far in debt and left his
son little which was not custom in the Igbo society. After being raised,
Okonkwo was left to fend for himself. A determined young boy Okonkwo went to a
neighbor to get some yam seeds to plant a farm for himself.
He suffered through a terrible first harvest and worked hard
to become a successful one as presented here: “He was still young but he
had won fame as greatest…He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of
yams, and had just married his third wife” (Achebe 5). Also Achebe continues of
his proud by mentioning several original words in his literary work as it is such
as Agbala, the earth goddess who owns all land (Ani), Chielo the name of the current priestess of Agbala,
the oracle of the hills and the caves and cowries which is their coin. The
African rituals are also presented here like polygamy and polytheism that are removed later
on due to the missionaries and it will be illustrated as a postcolonial aspect
later. In the case of marriage, the Igbo society has a ritual that a man can
have more than one wife. This clearly happens before the Christianity is spread
by the Europeans. Our protagonist
is having three wives and living friendly as shown here: “He worshipped them
with sacrifices of kola nut, food and palm-wine and offered prayers to them on
behalf of himself, his three wives and eight children” (Ibid 13). It is also shown in the novel that
Nwakibi has nine wives “There
was a wealthy man in Okonkwo’s village who had three huge barns, nine wives and
thirty children. His name was Nwakibie…” (Ibid 16). This
is also discussed in The World Book of
Encyclopedia “at one time, Islamic traditions
regulated marriage practices and family life throughout the northern Africa.
These traditions ‘polygamy’– the right of a man to have more than one
wife.(Anderson 71).  According to the
religious side, Igbo society has several gods as mentioned in Achebe’s work.
One of gods is called Ani, the owner of all land. Any person wants to sow the
seeds, he must sacrifice something to that god in order to get a good crop or a
rich harvest. This exactly shown when Unoka says:

“Every year,” he said sadly, “before 1 put any crop
in the earth, I sacrifice a cock to Ani, the owner of all land. It is the law
of our fathers. I also kill a cock at the shrine of Ifejioku, the god of yams. I
clear the bush and set fire to it when it is dry. I sow the yams when the first
rain has fallen, and stake them when the young tendrils appear” (Achebe 15).


African ways of life are farming and keeping the cattle. They also have their
own belief, such as “funeral ceremony, harvest”, etc. Besides, the people are
in peaceful condition. This can be seen that they often do the ceremonies
together while playing music using instruments made from “materials in the
surrounding environment”.  In addition,
this also describes that Africa has a great resource and that what makes the
invaders come to Africa under the umbrella of missionary. Regarding the social
structure in Igbo people we see that society is democratic one













From the
discussion above, It can be said that the novel Things Fall Apart represents the condition of “pre-colonial life in





Works Cited

Joseph. Heart of Darkness. W. W. Norton and Company: New York, 2006.


-Ohadike DC (1978). Igbo Culture and History, London:
Heinemann, 2000.Said. Edward.            Orientalism,
London : Penguin.

-Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. United States: Anchor
Books. 1959.

-Anderson, M. A.,
Fontana, L., Taylor, S.W., and WaughS.L. 2007. The World Book Encyclopedia. USA: World Book, Inc.
















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