Things Fall Apart
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The name of Albert Achebe (widely known as Chinua Achebe) holds a special place in the African literature. Chinua Achebe was born in a Christian family on November 16, 1930 in the city of Ogidi located in Nigeria (Franklin, 2008). Being educated Christians, his parents managed to engender Achebe's interests in two major directions: a fundamental examination of Nigerian Igbo traditions and an analysis of various aspects of existing world religions. The forenamed interest became a substantial base for the creation of his profound novel Things Fall Apart (1958)at the age of 28 years. All his life, Chinua Achebe had attempted to participate in the political life of the Biafra region of Nigeria. However, he had been deeply frustrated by the corrupted political leaders forcing him to resign and leave to the United States of America. In 1990, Chinua Achebe survived after a severe car accident. Nevertheless, the resulting physical disabilities did not prevent him from writing and teaching at Brown University. The author died on March 21, 2013 at the age of 82 years (Franklin, 2008). During his lifetime, Chinua Achebe had been recognized as a professional critic and talented novelist. He is mostly known for such novels as Arrow of God (1964), Things Fall Apart (1958),and No Longer at Ease (1960). Throughout his novel Things Fall Apart (1958),the author emphasizes the role of Nigerian traditions and social adherence as the balancing elements of the life of Nigerian people.
The Message of the Title of Chinua Achebe's Novel Things Fall Apart
The novel Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe (1958) has made a great contribution to the development of the African literature due to its emphasis on the peculiarities of tribal life in Nigeria both before and after colonialism. In order to understand the sgnificance of the work, it is compulsory to address the origin and importance of its title. Chinua Achebe derived the title of his novel from the poem "The Second Coming" (1921), written by William Butler Yeats. He takes Yeats' word combination things fall apart from the poem's third verse to highlight the nation's inability to hold on to its center, its origin, and history. The title Things Fall Apart evidently reveals a central message of the whole novel foreshadowing the African post-colonial drama, in general, and Okonkwo's personal drama, in particular. The work's title vastly emphasizes the end of the old traditional Nigerian life implying the loss of its innocence and the introduction of anarchy germinating among its people (Yeats, 2013, p.187). By choosing this title, Achebe wants to tell a reader about the new world which was born in Africa with the beginning of the colonial era. The author perceives this new world as a nightmare for the abutments of the African culture and as a premise for the consequent destruction of Okonkwo's world and life. The title's message is empowered by Achebe's integration of the phrase we have fallen apart into Okonkwo's speech. Meanwhile there is his evaluation of the role of the white man in the decline of the villages of Umuofia and Mbanta and the Igbo tribe (Chinua, 2010, p.124). The title elucidates a severe change in the tranquil and harmonious life of the Ibo society and its falling apart by the end of the novel. In other words, the title of Achebe's novel predicts the break of the Igbo tribe because of its fearful ordinance reinforced by the influence of the Christian missionaries and the domination of Great Britain's authority.
The Image of a Missionary in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The novel deeply addresses the social and cultural aftereffects of the arrival of Euroopean missionaries to Africa. It is important to note that the image of the missionary in Things Fall Apart by the writer is an image of the rather conflicting nature. It cannot be identified as solely positive or solely negative. The forenamed paradox is brilliantly uncovered through the characters of two opposing missionaries: Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown. The latter one performed deep respect towards the beliefs and traditions of the tribe and took his time to communicate with every family as "he went from family to family begging people to send their children to his school" (Achebe, 2010, p. 128). Meanwhile Mr. Smith was trying to agglutinate two cultures, publicly despising Mr. Brown's direction towards compromise and accommodation to the needs of those that he referred to as the sons of darkness (Achebe, 2010, p.130). Mr. Brown's contribution was highly evaluated by the Igbo people. He was even "presented with a carved elephant task, which was a sign of dignity and rank" (Achebe, 2010, p.127). His empathy towards the African people adds some positivity to the missionary's image within the novel. Nevertheless, his successor Mr. Smith had implemented the aggressiveness and superiority over black skinned non-Christians to the novel's general missionary activity. Mr. Smith had been highly intolerant towards the Igbo population as "he saw things as black and white. And black was evil" (Achebe, 2010, p.130). The novel sheds light to the dual nature of the image of missionaries throughout revealing two major impacts of the missionary characters. The positive image of the missionaries is reflected in Mr. Brown's effort to bring literacy, healthcare, and other products of civilization to the disposition of Igbo people. The negative aspect of the missionary's image is Mr. Smith's complicity in the colonists' aggressive penetration into the African culture and participation in the cultural defeat of the Igbo people as a united organic family.