Things Fall Apart: Culture Disruption

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Culture disruption in Chinua Acebe's Things Fall APart

The novel, Things Fall Apart rotates around the life of a central character called Okonkwo and the traditional lifestyle of the Igbo, ending up in the ultimate disruption of the lifestyle that came alongside the introduction of the Western religion (Christianity) into the Igbo community. The novel opens ten years after the death of Unoka, Okonkwo's father whom he loathes for bringing shame over him as a lazy and coward father. Okonkwo is out to cut a niche for himself despite the background and this he does by self-determination in the society and even beating AMalinze the cat in wrestling duel. He is later trusted with the security of a young boy, Ikemefuna, who was given to their village as a ransom for Ikemefuna's father having killed someone from Okonkwo's village.

Once the deity dictates that the boy must be killed, Okonkwo does that despite warnings not to participate in the killing since the boy was as good as his son. Thereafter, problems start trailing Okoknwo as he accidentally shoots to death a villager during a festival when his gun accidentally goes off. He is sent away from the village for seven years. He seeks refuge at Mbanta, his mother's ancestral land. When Okonwko goes back to his village after the exile years, he finds that the whites have settled in Umuofia and several changes have taken place like churches built, hospitals and schools and even access roads through the land. He is shocked and not ready to accept the changes hence wages, what turns out to be a lone war. The end of Okonkwo comes when he kills one of the white messengers in a bid to stop the westernization of the village. He ultimately hangs himself to death when the white soldiers come to arrest him, he dies a tragic heroes' death.

There are several cultural conflicts that are portrayed in the novel through the plot, events and the characters that are used by Chinua Achebe. Firstly, the people of Umuofia are seen to be having many deities and gods like AGbala, Chi to whom they are very obedient and loyal. Indeed, they even consult them in times of crisis on whether to go to war or not. For instance when a daughter of Umuofia is beaten to death in Mbaino, they consulted the deities on whether to go to war or not, and the directive they got was to demand for a virgin and a young boy and not to proceed to war, which they obeyed. Okonkwo was also sent away at the behest of the earth goddess for accidentally killing Ezeundu's son and he was also fined for beating the third wife during the week of peace. All these they did for fear of collective punishment from the gods if they failed to do as Achebe says 'if one finger brought oil it soiled the others' (pg87). The white missionaries on the other hand are a direct contrast of this religious belief since they believe in the existence of one God. They believe that He is the God who made heaven and earth plus all those that the Unuofia people claim to be gods hence they wanted the people of Umuofia to abandon their gods and follow the one God in heaven. The Christians belittled the Umuofia gods as unable to do anything and deceived them to kill innocent children, are made of wood and are dead. This did not go down well with the people of Umuofia hence a clash emerged between the two cultures.

The other conflict of way of life arose from the economic trends that differed between the western intruders and the Umuofia people. Agriculture was the valued source of livelihood and economy among the Umuofia culture. Indeed, when Okonkwos father died with the debt of many yams to many villagers, he was a disgrace. Okonkwo is also seen to have been lent 800 yams as a means of restarting his life after the seven years exile. The worth of a man is determined by the number of yams and other agricultural reserves that he has, indeed, when visitors came to visit a villager, he had to break cola, which was an agricultural product, as a sign of welcome, failure to have these products and produce from agriculture would mean one was to be considered lazy and not a man enough. The respect they had for their economic system was indeed sacrosanct that they had the annual Fest of the year before the commencement of harvest to honor the earth goddess. On the other hand, the whites were money oriented in their economy and in a way made faming and farm work worthless since they induced the trend of using money to buy away the yams among their congregation in the church. According to the new trends exhibited by the Christian influence, children no longer went to farm but branched to schools hence totally devaluing the economic activity of the Umuofia people rendering the rich people according to the village standards to poor people whose produce would be bought using white man's money.

The other major clash of culture was eminent in the diversity in the justice system between the white man's justice system and that of Umuofia. The people of Umuofia had a lot or reverence for the Egwuwgu who were trusted to make the best decisions when it came to issues of clashes and disagreements, they were known to drive the justice system of the land. They based their wise decisions upon the availability of evidence and they deeply consulted before making a decision. The reverence that Umuofia had for the Egwugwu made them not even be known to the whole society unless one was a member of the village cult, they were always covered by masks and women and children were not allowed to even meet them on the road, they had to run away when the Egwugwu were approaching. For instance when Uzowulu and the wife Mgbafo had disputes over Uzowulu beating her to miscarriage, first, Mgbafo did not speak before the Egwugwu nor did she present herself but was represented by the brother and neighbors. Secondly, though Uzowulu was fully aware of the consequences of beating a wife that bad, he never wanted to listen to any other judgments but that of the Egwugwu. Indeed the judgement that wa passed by the Egwugwu left everyone involved in the case satisfied. On the contrast, the white man had introduced a different justice system where only the interpreters and the white man knew the laws. They erected a court where the District Commissioner judge passed judgments in total ignorance and sending people to jails instead of the traditional fines. In the jails people were shaven and chained and regularly beaten. The prisoners were also made to engage in manual labor in the compound of the white commissioner and fetched for firewood for the court messengers and the commissioner, a task that only women did traditionally. The white justice system even introduce death sentence, a sentence that was not in any way within the hands of man in the traditional Umuofia culture.

The social life and the hierarchy was also a source of cultural conflict between the traditional was of life and that introduced by Christianity. In Umuofia, there was a clear sense of hierarchy with the father being at the top of the family followed by their wives and children thereafter. There was also respect that was given to brave warriors and reward was given for bravery as was the case with Okonkwo when he was made an elder at the tender age of 18 for "achieved fame as the greatest wrestler in all the land."…