Other essays and articles in the Literature Archives related to this topic include : History, Narrative and Culture in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe • Comparison of Tragic Characters in Things Fall Apart and Oedipus the King • Comparison Essay on Things Fall Apart and My Antonia
In the novel by Chinua Achebe, “Things Fall Apart", the reader encounters the Igbo people at a watershed moment in their history and culture. The incursion of the colonizing force is changing or threatening to change almost every aspect of their society: religion, family structure, gender roles and relations, and trade, to name just a few. In “Things Fall Apart", one recognizes just how much the representation by Achebe of Igbo society in “Things Fall Apart” is changing because women, who were typically restricted to the home and who possessed little decision-making power prior to colonialism, suddenly find themselves agents of important social exchanges through the roles they play in the trade that occurs in the market, as well as in the production of the crops that are sold at market.
Religion in Africa was a major aspect of their culture. Traditional African gods were of war and bravery. African warriors were rewarded, whereas Christianity taught to ‘turn the other cheek’ and shamed martyrs and warriors. The Europeans saw African religion as underdeveloped and dull. The Africans worshipped superhuman forces such as rain and sun, but the Christians worshipped only one supreme god. When the Europeans first arrived in Africa, the number of Christians was extremely low; making up about ten percent of a total population of eight million. By 2002, Christianity made up 116 percent of a population of about 30 million. An example of the changes in religion is in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Nwoye, son of great villager Okonkwo, converts his beliefs to Christianity. When Okonkwo returns from exile, he is infuriated at his son and disowns him. This shows how the Europeans were starting to change the African’s culture and cast aside their traditional beliefs.
Education was something brand new to the Africans. When the Europeans arrived, they built mission schools. The schools were built to educate the Africans, but it was mainly Europeans who attended them. Education was required for the Europeans, but not the Africans. As a result, one percent of Africans received a secondary education, whereas more than thirty-three percent of Europeans received one. Missionaries working as teachers in the schools were very dedicated to their work. They never talked down to the natives, and at most schools, everyone was treated equally. Some men, however, were biased and thought that true excellence could come from a white man. Many African political leaders received an education at a Christian mission school. One example of new African education is in the novel Things Fall Apart. Many Umuofians were outraged by the new schools because they taught of European culture and values. In African culture, Christian schools greatly altered ways of thinking.
African politics were altered greatly by the Europeans. In Africa, there was an elected council that served as government. Their government was more or less democratic. When the Europeans told the natives of the king that would now be their ruler, the Africans thought it was strange. They tried to tell the European men about their council, but the white men just ignored it. They said that the king owns all land, and will allow the Africans to live on it because he cares for his subjects. The Africans thought this was strange because they had worked and fought hard for their land and it was theirs. Although colonial rule was unpopular with most of the natives, some closely collaborated with the Europeans in exchange for certain privileges. Some were grateful to the Europeans for liberating them from slavery and war. Others thought the Europeans taught Africans skills that would help them rise socially and economically. Many Africans adopted Western traditions such as wearing suits. An example of governmental differences in Africa is in the novel Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo, the main character, accidentally shoots another man and is exiled from his tribe for seven years. This shows differences in crime punishment between the Africans and Europeans.
Africa was impacted socially by European colonization. In 1962, non-African ethnic groups made up about three percent of the total Kenyan population. There were over seventy-five different ethnic groups throughout Africa, mostly concentrated around bodies of water. African social status was very different from European. The father represented the family unit in government. Then there was the Village Council, which represented the villagers. The District Council was made up of elders, and the National Council represented the whole population. The voice of the people or public opinion made the laws. An example of social differences is in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. Polygamy was practiced regularly by the Umuofians, but was outlawed by the Christians.
African culture was greatly affected by European colonization in the mid-1900s. Some Africans thought that the European reforms would help them, while others believed that they just diluted their culture. The Europeans were taking over the Africans, who could do nothing to stop them.