Friday, November 29, 2013

Clash of Cvilizations in 'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is an amazing novel by Chinua Achebe that illustrates the conflict occurring during the period of British colonization of Africa. Things Fall Apart explores the struggles between the old traditions of the Igbo community and the effects of Christianity on the people of different calibers within that society. The novel is told from the perspective of the native people of Ibo. The novel takes place in Umuofia, in Nigeria, in an area where their culture is indigenous to the Ibo people. In "Things Fall Apart" it seems that the African Ibo culture was strong and functional, such as in its religious beliefs and customs, government, economic, and social coherence. The order of Ibo society became interrupted and began to unravel when the white missionaries entered Africa and introduced Christianity.

The colonial religion first attacked the outcasts, or osu, of the Ibo society in order to expand on the ideas of Christianity and how their belief system was not an accurate portrayal. The traditional belief system had been corrupted by the impact of the missionaries and there was encouragement of disavowing the traditional beliefs of the Ibo society. There were changes due to the entrance of the white man, it was no longer the same society that had been know to the Ibo people. The missionaries who came to Umuofia set out to reach everyone in order to convert him or her to Christianity. Kiaga approached two outcasts and told them they must shave their hair in order to let go of their heathen beliefs. The Christians even lived in the Evil Forest in order to prove that their belief system was not accurate.

The colonizers used religion as a tool of Conquest in Things Fall Apart. In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the white men who come to Umuofia find success in conquering the village by challenging Ibo religion. Because the first white men to appear in Umuofia were missionaries, the slaughter of Ibo society began with the challenging of the highly-regarded religion of the Ibo people. The white men began their religious assault by openly denouncing the many gods worshipped by the Ibo in order to convert them to the new faith. After accomplishing this, the white men set out to prove that the Christian religion was superior to all others by defying the powers of the Ibo gods when they built their church upon the cursed ground of the Evil Forest. With the Ibo religion being proved powerless, the converts began challenging their former religion by killing the sacred python, revered by the people of Umuofia. By attacking the fundamental teachings of the natives’ religion, the Christians were able to effectively conquer the Ibo people.

One of the main themes of the novel is change. It is also seen through religion. The tribe have lived for thousands of years in an untouched and unviolated existence. The arrival of the missionaries and the conversion of many to the Christian faith make it very difficult for some to cope with. Especially those who choose not to convert, and have to watch as their friends/family take a different path. The Clan has a different perception when it comes to the gods. Whereas the Christians believe in only one god, the Ibo have various gods who they worship. There is one supreme god, but they call him Chukwu because "he made all the world and the other gods."  They also worship other gods such as the Oracle of the Hills, the sacred python, and the chi, (or personal god). Two of these are animate gods, in the form of a woman and a reptile. This illustrates another difference between the two religions as the Christian's god is inanimate. The Umofians had a religion that worked out great for them, but when the white men came, they took over their religion and forced them to believe something else. Thus, the colonial religion has brought a change into the system of religion in Ibo society.