Things Fall Apart- A Postcolonial Perspective
Since it was first published in 1958, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart has caught the attention of several readers from Africa and around the world. This novel is also one of the best forms of literature in modern times.
The thought that 6 decades after its birth, this novel has sold twenty million copies twenty million copies all around the world and has been translated to nearly 60 languages. Things Fall Apart provides a proper space to probe the prevalent features of Achebe’s anti-colonial discourse and what has turned out to be known as “Achebism” in African literature.
As a Postcolonial Text
Things Fall Apart is a major work of Post-Colonial literature that describes what happens to a strong Nigerian during colonialism offering an insight into African culture that had not been portrayed before. Things Fall Apart is both a tragic and moving story of an individual set in the wider context of the coming of colonialism, as well as a powerful and complex political statement of cross cultural encounters. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer, Things Fall Apart the center cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, “The title, “Things Fall Apart” is taken from W.B Yeats poem, ‘The Second Coming’. The life of an Igbo tribe on the very cusp of the time when the wave of colonization washed over Africa set in Nigeria. The book follows over the story of ‘Okonkwo’, the son of ne’er do well, who is determined not to end up as a failure as his father but also rise up and follow tradition. But as the title predicts his life goes astray.
As a postcolonial narrative, the novel is a wide critical acclaim. From Chinua Achebe’s perspective, the Igbo culture and its complexity is the theme that opens up a historical account of the two parallel cultures.
According to O’Reilly (2001), when approaching a postcolonial text the writer has an awareness of some key issues that include: “the use of indigenous cultural traditions, the appropriation of English, and the impact (whether cultural, psychological or political) of colonialism and its aftermath” (p. 61). These three principal issues are scrupulously and efficiently dealt with by Achebe in Things Fall Apart. This novel illustrates the “cultural traditions” of the indigenous Igbo. It demonstrates cultural, psychological and political impacts of colonialism on the Igbo. And for making these two points of demonstration successful, Achebe resorts to the English language as the medium of expression. Among the three major issues inherent in a postcolonial text stated by O’Reilly, the first one, indigenous cultural traditions, will get more importance since it is more related to the topic of this paper.
Edward Said in Orientalism (2001) argues that “The [fabricated] Orient was a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences” (p. 01), and “Yet none of this Orient is merely imaginative” (p. 02). Majumder (2007) refers to E. B. Tyler, an anthropologist, whose writing is thought to be objective. Tyler writes The tourists, after reaching the impassable countries [in Africa] and seeing no police system available in their own countries, come to the direct conclusion that the cannibals live there as their wishes.
We think it is a wrong belief, because, in these ‘uncivilized’ countries there are severe rules and regulations in each stapes of life. (p. 137) Frantz Fanon (2001), offers the same statement that “For colonialism, this vast continent [Africa] was the haunt of savages, a country riddled with superstitions and fanaticism, destined for contempt, weighed down by the curse of God, a country of cannibals- in short, the negro country” (p. 170). In this respect, Achebe has placed himself in line with Said. Things Fall Apart has become an anti-orientalist discourse because of the authentic depiction of the Igbo life. The life of the Igbo is romanticized and so distorted by the Europeans. But by presenting a view of pre-colonial Igbo society Achebe attempts to reclaim African history from an African perspective”.