Who Is Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart?

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe is often considered to be the “father of modern African literature” (Alam, 102). He grew up in a time when Africans first began to challenge the power of the European colonists and their intrusion into African life (Sadeghi, 49), which is reflected in his first novel Things Fall Apart. A recurring theme in Achebe’s works is the representation of native African cultures and values before, during and after the colonial era. According to Achebe, “African peoples did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans. […] They had poetry and, above all, they had dignity” (Ojaide, 150). In Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe calls for the need to reclaim African culture at a time of newfound independence, which is achieved …show more content…
Achebe wrote the novel as a rebuttal to previous depictions of Africa in novels by white authors such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson (Alam, 102). While Africans were often portrayed as savage and uncultured in European literature, Achebe’s goal was to introduce the humanity of Africans into the literary sphere (Vanzanten, 87), something that had not previously been done on such a scale, and thereby correct previous narratives such as Conrad’s. In the novel itself Achebe criticises the Eurocentric misrepresentations of African culture. An example of this occurs at the end of the novel, when the Commissioner describes the book he is planning to write, entitled “The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger”. In the book, the Commissioner wants to describe the events of Okonkwo’s final hours, claiming it “would make interesting reading”, and that he could write a whole chapter on it. He later comes back to this statement, saying that there is too much else to include, (Things Fall Apart, 197). To the reader it seems unfair that, after reading about Okonkwo’s suffering in detail, his story is reduced to a mere paragraph. By reducing Okonkwo’s life to just the tale of his death, the Commissioner turns him into an anecdote and thereby dehumanises him. The penultimate sentence of the book ends with “and one must be firm in cutting out details” (Things Fall Apart, 197), which demonstrates the alteration of history the European colonists performed to justify the colonisation of the African continent. This passage symbolises the erasure of African culture that is inherent of colonisation, which instigated Achebe to write the novel in the first place, in order to reclaim and rewrite African

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