The African way of life
Things Fall Apart provides a rich introduction into traditional Ibo culture and values. Present an account of the way of the life featured in Part 1 of the novel. There is no standard definition of culture however many people consider culture to be referred to as the `system of shared beliefs, values, customs that members of society use to cope with their world and with another, and these beliefs are carried from generation to generation through learning’1. These include; family and clan relations, the way in which the people dress, prepare food.
The ceremonies and rituals that are held in there society. The social status of their people, and also political and religious practices. These are the things that Achebe has discussed throughout the novel allowing the reader to understand the African way of life. Achebe has not only discussed the richness and fairness of the Ibo culture but also did not hide away the injustices that arise in their culture. Culture can also be referred to as ‘the relationships of other cultures’.
This is clearly seen in Things Fall Apart when Achebe shows a contrast between the Ibo culture and the European culture and how these cultures blend together when the white men come as missionaries and try to communicate and live with the Africans. This would be discussed in greater detail during this account. Firstly, let us consider the term ‘evil. ‘ Every culture has its definition of evil and what it considers as an evil act. In Things Fall Apart, the Ibo culture referred to the Africans as people who had a different way of seeing what evil was.
This was quite clear in their ways of tradition. What is considered to be evil in one culture may not be seen as evil in another culture. For example the Africans who saw the church that was built by the Christians just a simple building whereas for the Christians it is a holy place. Europeans who went by the Congo River and saw the banks near by considered it to be an evil place because they haven’t lived there or they saw the vines surrounding the bank which gives it a more scary or evil look. Also in Things Fall Apart the clan continuously talks about the ‘Evil Forest.
‘ The people of Umuofia who had considered something as being evil had thrown it into the Evil Forest, Even when the Christians come to Umuofia the Africans allowed them to build there church in the Evil Forest thinking that the evil will destroy them, but nothing happened to the church by the supposedly evil spirit, instead the people of clan had burnt down the church. Evil is very important amongst the Ibo culture, a person who commits an evil act is dealt with by the clan and taken away from the land in order for that evil act not to be committed once again.
Also another quite interesting thing about the Ibo culture is its fear of twins, everytime a set of twins is born they are put into the evil forest in which death is bestowed amongst them. Next is how women are seen and treated by others within a culture. In Things Fall Apart, women are considered gentle, week and they need to be obedient to men (their husbands in general). Some women of the Ibo culture had a higher status than the other women, these include women who were considered as a priestess and were therefore treated and respected as a ‘god’ rather than a common women.
These priestess were usually placed at the front of the cave in which the oracle was found. The woman’s job was in the house, taking care of the children, preparing meals and raising easy crops such as the coco-yams (whereas the men had to grow yams). The men did the brave things such as hunting, fighting and raising yams (which is known as the harder crop to grow). As women and men had different crops to grow, they also had different crimes that they could commit and different stories they told.
Men’s crimes were seen as intentional but woman’s crimes were not as women had been seen as not being able to commit such a crime due to their innocence and gentleness. For example , men like Okonkwo were able to commit crimes whereas women were not. This is just how their culture was. When it came to telling stories, the men’s stories were of bravery and war and the young men had to listen to these instead of the fairytales that women had told. ‘So Okonkwo encouraged the boys to sit with him in his obi, and he told them stories of the land.
Okonkwo’s son Nwoye had said that he had enjoyed his father’s stories more than his mother’s fairytales, but this was not true. Okonkwo loved listening to his mother as her stories had kept his gentle spirit high. When he told hi father he enjoyed his stories more, his father was pleased with him and did not beat him. This brings up another issue in the Ibo culture. Men were allowed to beat their wives as Okonkwo did very often. ‘And when she returned he beat her very heavily. ‘ The man was the head of the household and could do as he pleased even if it meant beating his wife.