Book Response to Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart includes many interesting themes. The first time I read the book I was amazed at how much I discovered about the Ibo community. Reading the story of Okonkwo and the community brought various things to light but two topics really caught my attention. First, there is an interesting balance between the strength and weakness of cultural heritage. Second, there is an interesting emphasize on wisdom. One can easily jump into conclusions about the Ibo culture but with the book’s detailed look at the importance of cultural heritage and wisdom, a different perspective is created.
Throughout the book, Achebe stresses the importance of being critical when writing about African history. Achebe requires that African writers present a truthful picture of African society. The author stresses the importance of looking at the strength as well as the weakness of the culture. This is why the author gives a balance of the two. In Things Fall Apart, Obierika, the friend of Okonkwo plays the foil to rigid traditionalism of Okonkwo. Obierika often questions various customs. For instance, he questions the law that prohibits men from climbing palm trees (Achebe, 1994). He tells Okonkwo that he doesn’t know how they got that law. He narrates how men in other clan are free to climb the tree.
Another man, Ogbuefi, who is among the oldest men in Umuofia is also seen questioning some traditions. For instance, he questions the tradition of casting into the evil forest people who die during the week of peace (Achebe, 1994). He says that this is a bad custom observed by another village. He relates the custom to a lack of understanding. There are other characters in the book who also question some traditions including the practices of excluding people suffering from the swelling disease from communal activities and negotiating over dowries.
In my view, legitimizing the Ibo cultural heritage and also delegitimizing some cultural aspects that are considered more harmful makes Achebe an outstanding novelist in Africa. The double articulation shows an honest person. The balanced view gives a different perspective when it comes to the view of Ibo culture. One would quickly think that all people in the Ibo community are rigid when it comes to the matters of traditionalism. However, reading the book proves otherwise. It shows people with an open mind and people who are ready to embrace what is good and avoid what is harmful.
Second, in Things Fall Apart, Achebe emphasizes the need for wisdom. The work is characterized by flexibility and openness. I say wisdom because, qualities such as extremism, impatience, and rigidity rejects wisdom. Okonkwo really values these qualities. But Achebe doesn’t emphasize these qualities. Instead, the author advocates for suppleness, flexibility, and open-mindedness. For instance, many characters are able to survive the arrival of the culture of white people because of being flexible and open-minded (Achebe, 1994). They are able to move beyond their culture and adjust to new possibilities. These characters demonstrate the author’s wisdom voice.
Achebe acknowledges the need to protect cultural heritage. This is why he discourages throwing of one’s identity in favor of an alien’s identity. This is especially worse when the aliens practice exploitation and colonialism. However, the author acknowledges that as the world continues to change, customs will also change and the best way to deal with these changes is avoiding rigid adherence to culture. The author calls for wisdom for the people of Ibo village to be able to deal with the changing time.
Before reading the book, one would be quick to judge the Ibo people on matters of embracing other cultures. One would think that mostly the Ibo people prefer rigid traditionalism. However, after reading the book, a new perspective is created. The call to the use of wisdom enables these people to adapt to the changing world in a beneficial way. This is why I think Obierika would be a better spokesperson for Achebe. The author’s love for country or nationalism is best represented by a person with humane character, a person with the spirit of generosity and with a great heart like Obierika (Achebe, 1994). Otherwise having Okonkwo whose character is characterized by fanaticism, and violence is contrary to the author’s stand.
It is easy to jump into conclusions about the Ibo people and how they value their culture. One would think that the Ibo people rigidly hold on to their cultural heritage. However, a detailed look at the reactions and characters of these people by Achebe brings in a different perspective about the issue.
Achebe, C. (1994). Things Fall Apart. Penguin Books.