Things fall apart is a book that was written by Chinua Achebe to depict the struggle between tradition and change. It is a story of culture on the verge of change. The villagers in general are caught between resisting and embracing change and they face the dilemma of trying to determine how best to adapt to the reality of change. Another important theme in the story is the theme of masculinity and how it is interpreted differently. Additionally, language is depicted in the story as a sign of cultural difference. The author Chinua Achebe shows that the Igbo language is too complex for direct translation into English. The Igbo culture also cannot be understood within the framework of European colonialist values. This paper analyses the story in the “Things fall apart” while criticizing the book.
Proverbs are every important in any literary work because they put forward the message clearly to the audience. The novel “Things fall apart” by Achebe has made use of proverbs many times. However, some of the proverbs used are controversial. For instance, the proverb “Wherever Something Stands, Something Else stands beside it” has been use din the novel by the author to imply the concept of duality in interpretative reasoning and is seen as a philosophical pedestal on which the novel stands. According to Achebe, it is important that something is critically analyzed so that the second meaning can be revealed before letting it out. He states:
Wherever Something Stands Something Else will stand beside it. Nothing is absolute. I am the truth, the way and the life would be called blasphemous or simply absurd for is it not well known that a man may worship Ogwugwu to perfection and yet be killed by Udo. (Achebe 94)
Achebe is appealed by duality because it produces a multiplicity of meanings and indeterminate zones of representation that generate narrative invention. I do believe that duality as used in things fall apart by allowed the author to contest the dependence on reason in interpretation and analyses of facts and situations. This is seen in the use of ancestors to analyze events and things as they happen in the Igbo society. Just as the author establishes fixed taxonomy on the people, there is a problem among the people that do not thrive in fixed taxonomies. The use of taxonomy that is fixed could be the main reason for the misinterpretation of Achebe’s work by many critics. A classification that is based on sociology leaves many people to have expectations that are fixed on the characters that are fictional such as Okonkwo. They judge him of the sociological beliefs of the Igbo people rather than from the narrative viewpoint (Nwabueze 166).
Duality is depicted in one of the situations in the novel where Ikemefuna, one of the characters in the Novel is executed. The critical analysis of this episode in the novel reveals that due to the participation of Okonkwo in the execution of Ikemefuna, his life faced a negative trend, and finally steered to the horrendous denouement. Concerning the episode, many critics argue that Okonkwo committed a dreadful offence by participating in the execution of Ikemefuna. They posit that because of this hideous act, the life of Okonkwo began to decline and eventually drifted to catastrophe. Others argue that Okonkwo was being punished by the goiddess ala for the dreadful act of killing Ikemefuna. The conclusion on this issue is not clear even in the novel as many critics base their conclusion on the elder of the Igbo Ogbuefi Ozeudu who had warned Okonkwo not to participate in the execution since the boy called him father.
Achebe depicts a woman as a lesser gender than man. Thus, women are just to be seen and should not do anything. reading Achebe's conventional world as a woman, one cannot merely ascribe to the view that "one of Achebe's great achievements is his ability to keep alive our sympathy for Okonkwo despite the moral revulsion from some of his violent, inhuman acts. However, one should ask whether this sympathy may remain intact for those reading through a feminist lens. Although many critics explicate upon the horrors and injustices Okonkwo inflicts upon the men in his life on people like Ikemefuna and Nwoye they forget the suffering that the wives of Okonkwo undergo.
Reading the novel from a patriarchal standpoint, it is evident that the suffering of other people such as the wives of Okonkwo is justified. Achebe depicts the Igbo as a patriarchal society. However, this stand does not have a stand in the modern society. Ekwefi did not have a place in Okonkwo’s mind despite that she was knowledgeable, loving and showed independence. Though the man is the point of reference in this society, women are pivotal to the literal survival of community and societal norms (Achebe 102).
There is a lot of irony and regret by women in the model. The experience of women will lead them to value works differently from their male counterparts, who may regard the problems women characteristically encounter as of limited interest. Therefore, although a male critic may deem these events as minor instances, the feminist reader must note that there is, in these passages, a great sense of irony and regret. Preparing to attend her favorite pastime, the annual wrestling event, Ekwefi recollects her great love for the then impoverished Okonkwo. Although she was married to another man, the desires of Ekwefi desire for Okonkwo is so great that at the first opportunity, she abandons her husband to be with him, yet a sound beating is the compensation she receives for her love and devotion.
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Taking the authors ideas serious as expected, a person reading things fall apart will have to question a society that has no compassion for the brutality that is omnipresent in the lives of Okonkwo's wives. The reader must also question the patriarchal notion that devalues women so much that their feelings are not significant. There is, moreover, no week or even day of peace for the women of Umuofia. They cannot find sanctuary within the confines of their own homes, or in the arms of their own husbands. Due to these shortcomings of the novel concerning women, one must consider that the roles of male and female are societal constructs, and therefore the entire identity of women is based more upon constraints in the societal rather than physiological realities. Women are taught to mother, while men are conditioned to dominate and control. Hence, we know that men may also read as women, if they are willing to rethink their positions, as well as women's positions within patriarchal construct.
The novel things fall apart focused on the transition from traditional culture to the new culture of Christianity. It also focused on the language as a symbol of culture. As the author wrote the book, he dwelt on duality by using proverbs that could have other meanings if critically analyzed. Additionally, the author depicts the society as a patriarchal society with women being subjected to pain, neglect and suffering despite their knowledge. This is not good for the modern society.