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things fall apart - Alexandra Williams Sarefield History...

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Alexandra Williams Sarefield History 182 May 14, 2007 The Destruction of Igbo Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart European influence on non-European lands has almost always had a destructive influence on the native peoples and cultures that they invade. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart , the effect of Europeans in Nigeria is destructive, yet in a different way than previous conquests over the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand destroyed the native populations there. The Igbo people of Nigeria are a proud race, with their own civilizations, own religion, and own customs, so when European missionaries come to Nigeria to try to change the natives, they are met with much violence and resistance. The missionaries do come with those trying to conquer Nigeria, however, in Things Fall Apart , there is oddly very little(not none, however) violence on behalf of the Europeans as compared to European conquests over other parts of the world. However, their effects on the Igbo population ensure that Igbo society will never again be the same. The novel describes an Igbo man, Okonkwo, and his life and experiences within the Igbo culture, both before and after European conquest. Okonkwo is a highly respected leader in Umuofia, his village, with one of the largest farms, three wives, many children, and the respect of every man, woman, and child in Umuofia. Okonkwo is ambitious and stoic to a fault, with a heavy temper that he never hesitates to use on anyone who may cross him. In a battle with a neighboring tribe, Okonkwo wins a virgin and a fifteen-year-old boy named Ikemefuna. While the virgin is given to another man, Ikemefuna remains with Okonkwo, working with him on his
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farms and living in his household. Though he never expresses it, Okonkwo comes to like Ikemefuna quite a bit, appreciating the influence he has over Okonkwo’s son Nwoye, who Okonkwo worried was becoming effeminate and “soft”. Everything is well until Okonkwo loses his temper during the Week of Peace, a holy week, and beats his youngest wife over something careless. He shocked the community by committing this grave offense and though he made some repentance, it is obvious he made a serious mistake. This is when the book’s title comes into play, as after this, things truly do begin to fall apart. The oracle informs Okonkwo that Ikemefuna must be killed; however, Okonkwo can take no part in it since Ikemefuna calls him “father”. Though Okonkwo is crushed by the news, he knows that if it isn’t done, things will be much worse. He and several other men lead Ikemefuna on a trek, telling him that he is going home, and then kill him with machetes. The other men call on Okonkwo for help, so despite the oracle’s warning, he cuts Ikemefuna down. After this, Okonkwo falls into a deep depression, refusing to sleep or eat. Not long after this, his favorite daughter, Ezinma, begins to fall ill.
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