Title: Things Fall Apart
Author: Chinua Achebe
Rating: 3/5 ★★★☆☆
Set against the backdrop of colonial times, this book is written with a political agenda of showcasing that impact of modernism on the lives of Nigerian communities. This story permeated within me a sense of empathy towards the lost and forgotten cultures who fell victim to the impending reformation. I dealt with a sense of epiphany throughout the book making me fearsome of the realities faced by so many people who voice had been dampened by the foreign intrusion.
This is a modern African literature presenting the ideological contestation of the traditional and modern ideas within the time frame of pre and post-colonial life in Nigeria. The style of writing is a conscious blend of his native language and English. Achebe has received criticism for choosing English as a medium to voice the adversities of people instead of their native language. However, in anticipation of an expansive reader base, he has written the book in English but has kept some of the local words as it is making sure that his native language doesn’t fall victim of globalization. The major portion of the story dealt with a constant tussle between the old and the new, modernism and traditionalism. In the beginning, the novel had shed light on the Nigerian ways of doing things with storytelling being a prominent part of their culture. The invasion of white missionaries and colonial government not only disintegrated the Igbo society but also imposed English language attacking the customs of a collapsible culture. This had a deeper impact on the lives of native communities as they had to let go of their values and culture system which led to a systematic destruction of individual identities.
The protagonist Okonkwo was a strong and cruel man who earned fame in his early years as an accomplished wrestler as opposed to his drunkard and incompetent father. Okonkwo believed in the power of his dominant masculinity and considered emotions a sign of weakness. He was determined to become wealthy and had three wives to command. The story is a struggle of his resistance towards missionary ideologies and the ambiguities of cultural clash consequential of power politics. Did Okonkwo really fight for protecting his traditions or it was the inability to accept the flaws in his culture? Was he justified?
For me, Okonkwo remained a ruthless and remorseless person despite being portrayed as a tragic hero by many. I was cringing away from the violence and killings. Often, I found myself quickly turning the pages to avoid reading the Okonkwo’s beating his women and children and killing one which is why this remains a 3 star for me. I wouldn’t recommend it as a must read but this book is a good reminder of the blessings and privileges we tend to ignore sometimes.