Colonization in Things Fall Apart
The villagers of Umuofia have been changed by colonialism throughout the novel Things Fall Apart by becoming more fearful of the change of traditions, gaining a desire for change, and gaining a feeling of having their traditions destroyed. Umuofia was a village that had strong ideas of masculinity, tradition, and very strict gender roles. The novel is set during the late 1800s to early 1900s when the British were expanding their influence in Africa; economically, culturally, religiously, and politically.
Things Fall Apart shows the colonization of Umuofia by the British and the violent changes this brought about in the lives of the tribe members. The Igbo culture highly regarded tradition, culture, and their beliefs, so when they became aware of the white men and their alternative beliefs, they became fearful for what they did not yet know. Holding up one’s standards of tradition was very important in Umuofia, and was heavily presented throughout the character Okonkwo, where he desired to have the traditional male dominance and power.
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He feared not being able to uphold this tradition, and feared how his tribe would view him if he did not follow these traditions. “But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. ” (Chapter 2, Pg. 12) The representation of fear within the character of Okonkwo signifies the fear that would be present throughout many male figures throughout Umuofia.
These male figures are scared to break traditional and live in literal fear of going away from their ways of life, which was only more heavily exemplified when the white man came to Umuofia. The villagers believed that the white men were lesser, simply because they did not have their same traditions and ways of life. “None of his converts was a man whose word was heeded in the assembly of the people. None of them was a man of title. They were mostly the kind of people that were called efulefu, worthless, empty men.
The imagery of an efulefuin the language of the clan was a man who sold his machete and wore the sheath to battle. Chielo, the priestess of Agbala, called the converts the excrement of the clan, and the new faith was a mad dog that had come to eat it up. ” (Chapter 16, Pg. 144) Some of the tribal members look positively towards the life and religion that the white men bring, and look onto the white man’s way of life with a sense of hopefulness. The main character affected by his curiosity towards the Christian religion was Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son.
Nwoye is lured into the Christian religion as he feels welcome and does not feel ridiculed for being “soft,” as his father thought he was. Okonkwo feels as his son is ruining the traditions of the tribes and states, “you have all seen the great abomination of your brother. Now he is no longer my son or your brother. I will only have a son who is a man, who will hold up his head among my people. ” (Chapter 20, Pg. 172). Nwoye’s father disowns him only because he chooses a path nontraditional to his culture.
Nwoye feels welcomed in the white man’s religion, although he still feels the guilt of his mother tribe. Okonkwo, for example, resists the new political and religious orders because he feels that they are not manly and that he himself will not be manly if he consents to join or even tolerate them. To some extent, Okonkwo’s resistance of cultural change is also due to his fear of losing societal status. His sense of self-worth is dependent upon the traditional standards by which society judges him. This system of evaluating the self inspires many of the clan’s outcasts to embrace Christianity.
These outcasts find refuge in the Christian value system from the Igbo cultural values, that place them below everyone else. At the beginning of the novel, the villagers of Umuofia had assumed childish ideas of the “white man,” which later turned into bitter emotions towards what the white man had brought to their village. “’It is like the story of white men who, they say, are white like this piece of chalk,’ said Obierika. He held up a piece of chalk … ‘And these white men, they say, have no toes. ‘” (Chapter 8, Pg. 4) The villagers mocked the concept of a white man, and their lack of open-mindedness towards the possibility of one being real, showed the tribal members value of tradition. Along with the colonization of Umuofia, was the arrival of the white missionaries whose aim was to spread the message of Christianity and to convert people to their religion. The conversion to Christianity of tribal peoples destroyed an intricate and traditional age-old way of life in the village. “‘The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion.
We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart. ‘” (Chapter 20, pg. 152) By this point in the novel, the tribal members feel as if their traditions and customs have been ruined by the white man. The serious, frustrated, and unhappy mood that is created from the series of events in the novel Things Fall Apart shows how much the Ibo culture values tradition, choice, and family.
Because the Igbo people regard their culture so highly, they are afraid of the change that the white man may bring, fearing their customs may be lost. Although the coming of the white man was not feared by all, some, such as Nwoye, desired something more. And others, such as Okonkwo, were angered by the coming of the white men, as he felt they would ruin the Igbo society. Colonialism brought a wave of varying emotions within the Igbo people; anger, confusion, acceptance and sadness. Colonialism forced tradition out of a society that heavily valued it. Colonialism brought change to a place that did not ask for it.
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