Post-colonial literary criticism is a useful theoretical tool to analyze the fall of indigenous society as depicted in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. In particular, the theoretical concepts of the process of colonization from the perspective of the colonized, the psychological impact colonization has on the Igbo people, and the Indigenous resistance to colonization are relevant to the analysis of the fall of indigenous society in Achebe’s seminal novel. To begin, colonization refers to the act of establishing colonies.
This is mainly done to expand the territory of a certain nation, increase their own resource supply, and find new resources in the land being conquered. Colonization may have a positive effect on the colonizer, but the process of colonization typically affects the indigenous population negatively. Colonization causes change, which usually takes the form of whatever the colonizer believes to be correct without considering the ideas of the indigenous people who are in some cases treated like livestock.
The greater the difference between the colonizer and the colonized, the greater the change that occurs from the perspective of the colonized. Once a society has been completely altered, the indigenous people not only begin to experience changes to their lifestyle, but also a change in the way they view the world. The novel Things Fall Apart describes the Igbo society before and after the British arrives. The first part of the novel deals with the tribal lifestyle of the Igbo people, which is the author’s way of showing the culture of the Igbo people from their own perspective.
The Igbo people have been long time practitioners of their faith, with the next generation following the footsteps of their forefathers. Their culture and view of the world remains unchanged until the British arrive. During Okonkwo’s seven year exile from Umuofia, not only does his own village begin to change, but the neighboring villages appear to be changing as well. Due to the technological advancements occurring in Europe, the Igbo people are helpless against the British missionaries who arrive, as explained by the quotation, “Have you heard, asked Obierika, ‘that Abame is no more? … ‘Abame has been wiped out,’ said Obierika (119). ” The quotation reveals that the Igbo people are beginning to realize that they must either adapt and accept the foreigners or risk becoming completely annihilated similar to their fellow tribesmen from the village of Abame. It is evident that the goal of the colonizer is to bring change to the nation being occupied, but these changes often bring chaos to the indigenous people’s way of life, which in turn can alter the way their society functions.
Secondly, the mentality of the colonizer and the colonized differ significantly. While the colonizer believes that he is bringing civilization to a society in which he deems “barbaric”, the indigenous people view the colonizers as a threat to their lifestyle and, as such, often look down on the beliefs of the foreigner. After living a certain lifestyle for an extended period of time, a sudden change in lifestyle abnormally envelops not only a society as a whole, but the individuals who live in that society.
The psychological state of the indigenous people worsens due to the forced ideas of the colonizers mixing with their own, which can cause a rift in their thinking. A decision has to be made eventually; however, the colonizer typically tries his hardest to prevent them from making what he believes is the “wrong” decision. Although the colonizer appears to be helping the indigenous people, his true intentions are all but innocent. Due to their technological disadvantages, the colonizers have an advantage over the indigenous people, causing the previous existing people to feel undermined. Even after the colonizers eave, the colonized people continue to bear the scars left behind by the colonizers, as stated by Hayes who argues that, “Post Colonial Theory recognizes the trauma resulting from the alienation of indigenous people from their own land, even after achieving independence” (Hayes). Colonization leaves behind permanent psychological damage, even long after independence has been obtained. Moreover, the psychological impact is also depicted in Things Fall Apart. When the missionaries from Britain arrive in Nigeria, the Igbo people are amused at first when they first hand witness a “white man”.
However, the one of the spiritual leaders in the Igbo clan who is known as the Oracle warns the people that “the strange man would break their clan and spread destruction among them (120). ” This warning foreshadows the events that follow, and the Igbo people begin to feel inferior to the British colonizers after becoming aware of their destructive capabilities which were mainly due to their technological advancements. The missionaries who arrive also spread Christianity to the people. Those with power in Igbo society are not associated with any of the early converts.
However, the “osu” or outcasts quickly join the new religion because the culture practiced by the Igbo do not accept them, and they are therefore easily swayed by the words of the foreigners. Although Okonkwo is a man of power in Igbo society, his son Nwoye is fascinated by the preaching of the missionaries. Eventually, Nwoye decides to cut his ties with his father as evident in the following exchange, “How is your father? Obierika asked, not knowing what else to say. I don’t know. He is not my father, said Nwoye unhappily (124). Colonization has impacted the Igbo people negatively and their original society has begun to diminish, starting in the second part of the novel Things Fall Apart. Finally, although colonization may have psychologically destabilized the indigenous way of thinking, there is often a handful of individuals who firmly hold onto their beliefs regardless of the situation. It is those people who typically want to restore their nation to the state that it was before being colonized. Due to their passionate desire to bring their nation back to its former glory, resistance against the oppressors is their way to show their dedication.
Unfortunately, many forms of resistance typically fail due to various reasons, with some being more preventable than others. One such reason could be that violence plays a large role in fighting against oppressors, which eventually leads to either success to the indigenous people should they succeed, or harsh punishment if they fail. The risk factor involved in this is one that shouldn’t be viewed at lightly and thus the majority of the colonized people do not actively engage in resistance. As a result, resistance doesn’t happen as often as it is planned due to the risk involved.
Furthermore, the indigenous people in Things Fall Apart attempt to resist the British both before and after they make their colonial presence in Nigeria. Prior to the arrival of the British missionaries, a lone man riding what the Igbo people called an “iron horse” appears. Due to his strange appearance, the people in the clan decide to kill the man, “… and they killed the white man and tied his iron horse to their sacred tree because it looked as if it would run away to call to man’s friends” (120). Soon after, more British people begin to settle in Nigeria and preach their religion to the Igbo people.
This event causes the British to establish a colonial presence in Nigeria. At the end of the novel, Okonkwo’s rage gives him an incentive to start a revolution by calling his people to the market place. Okonkwo’s goal is to persuade his people to start a war against the British, firmly believing that his people will follow him to fight the oppressors. After a messenger arrives, Okonkwo decides to initiate the fight, and successfully draws “first blood”. As Achebe writes, “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog” (178-179).
This quotation describes Okonkwo’s disappointment after realizing that his fellow clansmen have changed, losing their sense of patriotism along the way. In conclusion, the points above illustrate the fall of indigenous society in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart using post-colonial literary criticism. Colonialism is typically viewed as an event of the past. However, although signs of colonialism are not as evident in the modern world, the after effects of a previously colonized nation continue to exist. For instance, the Tutsi and Hutu tribes from Rwanda were brought closer together because of the European colonizers.
Prior to their arrival, the two tribes could be considered two different, rival nations with a different set of rules and culture. The political devastation caused by the Europeans due to their colonial presence in Africa, “also involved ethnic tension and violence due to colonialism exists because of poorly drawn international boundaries” (“Effects of European Colonialism in Africa”). However, the Europeans had little concern for the rivalry between the two tribes and so Rwanda was founded. Unfortunately, this caused a massive genocide in 1994, which killed approximately one million people.
Thus, the act of colonialism has always benefitted the colonizer, and the indigenous people are left with the option to either adapt or risk elimination, which is evident even after independence has been achieved as proven using Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as an example. Work Cited Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. 1958. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. Print. “Effects of European Colonialism in Africa. ” Yahoo! Contributor Network. N. p. , n. d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. Hayes, David. Class Lecture. Post Colonial Literary Theory. Westview Centennial Secondary School, Toronto, ON. 14 Feb 2013.