Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Contrast between Snowball and Napoleon in George Orwell's "Animal Farm"

A Contrast between Snowball and Napoleon

Snowball offers a striking contrast to Napoleon. While Napoleon is secretive, Snowball is frank and open-hearted. While Napoleon is prone to be reticent, Snowball is an eloquent orator. While Napoleon insists on the importance of agricultural production, Snowball wishes to pay greater attention to the development of scientific technology as represented by his plan to build a windmill on the farm to generate electricity. While Napoleon wants animals to keep themselves in a state of armed readiness to defend the farm against a possible attack, Snowball believes that pigeons should be sent to other farms to excite the animals on those farms to rise in revolt against their human masters. This contrast between the two leaders is based on historical facts. Napoleon, as already pointed out, represents Stalin, and Snowball, on the other hand, represents Trotsky who came into conflict with Stalin and who was driven away by Stalin into exile. Stalin and Trotsky were men of opposite views, and so are Napoleon and Snowball in the story. After Snowball has been driven away from the farm, Napoleon, making use of Squealer, starts a campaign of slander and vilification against Snowball. Whenever any misfortune or hardship or a piece of bad luck is experienced by the animals on Animal Farm, Squealer, acting under Napoleon’s orders, gives out that Snowball is responsible for it. Every disaster on the farm is attributed by Napoleon to the machinations of Snowball who, however, is nowhere in the picture at all. Stalin, likewise, had slandered and defamed Trotsky for years after Trotsky had gone into exile. The contrast between Napoleon and Snowball helps to lend a greater vividness to the delineation of both.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Symbolic Meaning of the Killing of the Marlin in Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea"

The Symbolic Meaning of the Killing of the Marlin

On a symbolic level, the killing of the giant marlin means attaining one’s goal in life, a goal that may be very distant and the way to which is fraught with many hardship, obstacles, and dangers. The journey towards the goal causes the way farer, much distress and much pain. However, the quest is a noble one, and the seeker after the prize is fired by a mighty purpose. The lacerated hands symbolize the rebuffs that a man suffers in the course of his efforts to attain his ambition, while the prolonged resistance of the marlin shows that gaining a high objective is not an easy task. The old man wins a victory over the marlin by means of “resolution” (will power and persistence) and “tricks” (technique and strategy), and these are the means that any man must adopt in order to attain any high objective.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Importance of the Boy in Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea"

The Importance of the Boy in Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”

1. As a companion and an assistant to the old man.
Santiago’s remembering the boy many times in the course of his voyage emphasizes two facts:
a. Santiago value the boy’s company as a source of comport to him in his loneliness. When the boy is not with him, he misses him greatly and repeatedly thinks of him, and each time thinks of him feelingly.
b. Santiago values the boy because of the assistance he could have rendered in the fight against the marlin, if the boy had been with him. The boy could have served Santiago in many ways; in massaging his cramped hand and in wetting the coils, etc.

2. As a symbol of the old man’s past youth
The boy in the story also symbolizes Santiago’s youthful strength (just as the lions do). The boy is a constant reminder to Santiago of his own youthful days, of his courage and bravery in those days. That is the reason why thoughts of the boy occur to him again and again. Subconsciously, Santiago draws much consolation, comfort, and strength from his thoughts of the boy. But even consciously Santiago looks upon the boy as a source of inspiration to him. He says in so many words that the boy keeps him alive. Actually Santiago is still young at heart, and that is why he responds to the boy all the more readily. Thus the boy becomes a symbol of Santiago’s inner youth which still persists in Santiago, and which becomes a bond between him and the boy.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea": "A Man can be destroyed but not defeated".

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said.
“A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

The quotation above deals with Santiago’s fierce fight with the sharks. The sharks prove an enemy more formidable than the marlin. However Santiago does not lose heart or experience a feeling of helplessness or despair. In fact, Santiago’s basic heroism comes out here to an even greatest extent than in the account of his struggle with the marlin. In his struggle with the marlin, he proved victorious while in his fight with the sharks he suffers a defeat. However, it is a defeat which is in no way less than a victory. In other words, Santiago remains undefeated in spite of his defeat. It also gives the readers a keener awareness of the fact that Hemingway regards moral as well as mental stamina as the most important value in life. Though Santiago has grown old and his physical stamina has declined yet his moral stamina remains strong. That is why his utterance after he has killed the first sharks which attacks his marlin acquires a great significance.

The old fisher man is Hemingway’s code hero who illustrates the values of life that Hemingway cherished and glorified all his life, such as courage, dignity, honor, dedication, endurance, etc. A man may grow old and be wholly down on his luck but can still dare, persist when he is defeated, and thus by the manner of his losing he wins a victory. Therefore it can be said that his defeat is a victory for him, and it is for this reason that Hemingway probably represents that “A Man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

A Brief Note on the Structures of Chinua Achebe's Thing Fall Apart

A Brief Note on the Structure

Superficially, the novel is divided into three parts, the first thirteen chapters centered in Umnofia (name of a village), being part one, the next six, exiled in Mbaino (a number of villages), are part two, the final six, accompose a turn to death, part three. These twenty five chapters are upon close analysis, divided into four groups of six chapters each with one pivotal chapter 13 in which Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeldo’s son, Ikemefuna, and must flee. The plan is carefully worked out and merits closer analysis.

The first six chapters which might be called the coming of Ikemefuna, they themselves break into two three chapter units. The first deals primarily with Okonkwo, his strength and weaknesses, and the circumstances of the arrival of the sacrificial boy. The second three chapters deal with the Ikemefuna agricultural year and the festival and games that climax it. Over all, the first six chapters portray the people of Ikemefuna through the actions and affairs of one of its most prominent citizens. There is little plot action. Even Okonkwo’s beating off Ojiugo which retrospectively can be seen as his first overt crime against Ani (the earth or earth goddess) seems no more than a display of Okonkwo’s temperament and the village priest dealing with it. Similarly the disrespect Okonkwo shows his father only retrospectively may appear an offence to the earth.

The second six chapters carry a greater load of thought, in the three alternative chapter that shows Okonkwo in crisis; in chapter 7 the killing of Ikemefuna; in chapter 9 the subduing of the ogbanjo spirit in his daughter, Ezinma; and in chapter 11 the seizing of Ezinma by the priestess of the oracle of the Hill and Caves, Agbala. To these might be added chapter 13, the fourth crisis and pivotal (essential) chapter. The other 3 chapters (to which may be added chapter 14) carry less plot action, but are of great thematic importance for the deal with marriage. The married chapters take up the married contract of Obereika’s daughter, (Obereika is Okonkwo’s close friend who does not agree to Okonkwo’s action to kill Ikemefuna) the setting of marriage deputed by ancestral egwugwo, and the Uri of Obereika’s daughter.

The first six chapters may be described as oppressively masculine. Okonkwo’s manly and sometime vicious behavior and the hard work that goes into production of the man’s crop the yam. Even the celebration that climaxes the 6th chapter is dominated by the manliest sport, wrestling – the same sport through which Okonkwo first achieved fame, reported in the 1st paragraph of the novel. Thus the section ends as it began, with the manliest strength of wrestler.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Narrative Technique in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"

Narrative Technique in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"

Chinua Achebe is probably the most widely read of contemporary African writers. His first novel, Things Fall Apart published in 1958 brought forth glory and fame. Then it was followed by his other novels such as No Longer Ease (1960), Arrow of Good (1964) and A Man of the People (1966). His father was an evangelist and church teacher, although many of his relatives adhered to the Ibo religion and customs. Thus, he grew up `at the crossroads of cultivars'. To quote in his own words Achebe took up the theme of how Christianity influenced and enveloped gradually the tradition of Ibo religion and culture in Things Fall Apart. The title of the novel borrowed from Yeats' The Second Coming is appropriate to the novel's record of the destruction of a civilization. Yeats' poem, The Second Coming, foresees the end of the Christian era while Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart records the end of the non-Christian era in Eastern Nigeria. The parallel between Okonkwo's sacrifice of Ikemefuna and the story of Abraham and Isaac is brought to the surface when Nwoye takes Isaac as his Christian name.

Things Fall Apart seems a simple novel, but it is deceptively so. On closer inspection we see that it is provocatively complex, interweaving significant themes: love, compassion, colonialism, achievement, honour and individualism. Achebe employs devices such as proverbs, folktales, rituals and juxtaposition of characters to provide a double view of Ibo society and the central character, Okonkwo. The traditional Ibo society is a complex one: ritualistic and rigid yet in many ways surprisingly flexible. The child is valued more than any material acquisition yet the innocent Ikemefuna is denied love and life. Outwardly Umuofia is a world of serenity and harmony but inwardly it is torn by individual's doubts and fears. It is a society in which "age was respected ... but achievement was revered." It is this sustained view of duality that the novel consistently presents in order to create and intensify the sense of tragedy and make the reader understand the dilemma that shapes and destroys the life of Okonkwo.

Okonkwo throughout his life is ruled by an overriding passion to become successful, powerful, rich, and become one of the lords of the clan of Umuofia. His violent hatred being referred as failure arises in reaction to his father's disastrous life and shameful death. The reader may at first stand in Okonkwo's side, but his violent repudiation in turn tears apart those positive qualities of love, compassion and sensitivity. His obsession for manliness dominates the entire life, both public and private. He ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper and so did his little children. He sees a threat to himself and his `dynasty' even the informal relaxed story-telling sessions because he thinks that these stories will make women of his sons. So, he encourages the boys to sit with him in his obi and tells stories of the land - masculine stories of violence and bloodshed. No episode in the novel dramatizes Okonkwo's desire to assert his manliness more clearly than the killing of Ikemefuna whom he loves as his own son. It took place during the feasting of the oracle of the hills and caves. Ezeudu also advises him to abstain himself from the participation. But Okonkwo did participate and slain the innocent child. He does so as the narrator affirms because he was afraid of being thought weak. On the other occasion Okonkwo exerts force to mould his chi, personal god, to his will. He thereby violates the conventional harmonious relationship that one has with his personal god.

For Okonkwo, the conflict between private self and public man is the conflict between the feminine and masculine principles. His inability to comprehend the fact that the feminine attributes makes him vigorously suppress in himself. His idea of the necessity for greatness is revealed in his naive comments on the deaths of Ndulue and his eldest wife, Ozocmena. Ndulue was a great warrior, the respected elder village because he balanced the strength and sensitivity of masculine and feminine principles. But for Okonkwo, one is either a man or a woman; there can be no compromise, no composite identity.

Throughout his life Okonkwo relies on violence to solve any issues. This code negates human response and severs him from his traditional roots that ultimately lead him to a tragic end of his life. He fails to hold Nwoye from turning to Christianity, lay his masculine forces like coercing, threatening and even beating because Nwoye seeks release from bondage in the new religion of the white man. Again, when he returns from exile, he faces an altered society, a society that in its flexibility has allowed a place for the white Christian missionaries. Then when the entire clan gathers to decide how to deal with the inroads established by the missionaries, Okonkwo responds to use violence. But this recourse to violence is not the view of Ibo society any more. Unable to change himself, he does not accept change in others in the world around him, in the people of Umuofia. When no one listens to his opinion, he suddenly realizes, too belated, that he is all alone pushed outside of his own society. He cannot return as well as cannot begin again. Having no place in this new Umuofia, driven out by his own inability to bend and change, Okonkwo ends his life as he lived it - by violence.

Achebe also portrays the Ibo community, besides Okonkwo, as a staunch and rigid in their adherence to values and customs. The trial scene reveals the rigidity and flexibility of the society in which the domestic conflict between Uzowulu and his wife, Mgbafo is settled. Uzowulu has beaten his wife so severely once, as he does so very often that she has fled to her family for protection. While such conflicts are solved in personal level but Uzowulu is the kind of man who will listen only to the judgement of the great Egwugwa, The masked ancestor spirits of the clan. This shows that the peace of society depends on the decrees of the gods, which take precedence over personal consideration even though it means a ruthless violation of human impulses as in the murder of Ikemefuna or the throwing away of twins.

The firmness, with which the society controls impending disorder, becomes even more apparent when contrasted with spontaneous communal feasting that precedes it - the coming of the locust. This sudden occurrence aptly demonstrates the joy and vitality of the society. This suddenness, bringing joy, is matched with the joy being taken away. The very moment that Okonkwo and his sons sit feasting, Ezeudu enters and tells the decree of the oracle of the hills and caves. Just as Okonkwo's response to the celebration is controlled by simultaneous announcement of the doom of the innocent child so the narrator modulates the readers' response to contrasting values and customs of Umuofia.

The rigidity and firmness of Ibo society is evident by the exile of Okonkwo for the inadvertent killing of Ezeudu's son. Achebe shows that the death of Ezeudu's son comes as a result of the circumstances of the situation and not by the deliberate act on Okonkwo's part, to confirm the rigidity of tribal laws. The inflexibility is further revealed by the simple act of a cow getting loose in the fields being met with a harsh penalty. Achebe, with subtlety, succeeds in presenting the inflexibility of the values of Umuofia as it responds to any threat, no matter how small, to the overall stability of the clan.

The Ibo community, how hard they tried to preserve their own religion but at last they succumb to the Christianity that percolated rapidly. Rev. Brown was the pioneer and he succeeded in preaching Christianity through peace, love and harmony. But his successor Rev. Smith was brutal and used violent means. He was determined to destroy the traditional practice and uses force to accept his ways and humiliate or eliminate those who do not want to accept his ways. He has the Egwugwu, including Okonkwo, disgraced and humiliated, their head shaven in testimony to their dishonour. For this reason, we sympathize with Okonkwo at his violent action in killing the messenger. Christianity tried to answer the private fears and doubts oven the arbitrariness of the god's decrees, which deny human considerations. It is the catalyst but not the primary cause of things falling apart. Umuofia was already disintegrating and reforming, and Christianity took the advantage out of it. Achebe succeeds in the technique of juxtaposition in articulating complexities and contradictions of Umuofia, of Okonkwo and of the dilemma, which arise when they confront Christianity.

Achebe's great achievement lies in his ability to keep alive our sympathy for Okonkwo despite our moral revulsion from some of his violent inhuman acts. With Obierika we condemn him for participating in the killing of the innocent boy, Ikemefuna, a felling of despise for denying his son, Nwoye, love, understand and compassion. We join the village elders in disapproving Okonkwo's uncompromising rigid attitude towards unsuccessful effeminate man. Yet our sympathy lies with him because we know from his reactions to his violence that deep within him, he is not a cruel man. Though he participates in the brutal killing of Ikemefuna, his basic aim was to show that he is not effeminate. We see him brooding over this deed for three full days. On one hand, Okonkwo is dispassionately castigating his fragile loving daughter Ezinma and deeply regretting that she is not a boy while on the other occasion struggling all night to save her from Ibo or returning again and again to the cave to protect her from any possible harm.

Achebe's characters are complex individuals, typeo rather than archetypes, resolutions of whose conflict is central to the plot. It is clear that Achebe's Europeans even the more liberal ones like Mr. Brown will never dream that they have anything to learn from Africans - who may be studied but never imitated ... That is part of the tragedy for Africans who find it almost impossible to comprehend the depth and consequences of white man's arrogance, as pointed out by Bernth Lindfors.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Portrayal of Pre-Colonial Africa in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"

Chinua Achebe's Portrayal of Pre-Colonial Africa
by Edgar Rife

The concept of balance in Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, is an important theme throughout the book. Achebe introduces this idea with an excerpt from William Butler Yeats's poem, "The Second Coming." The notion of balance is stressed here as important, because if balance does not exist, order is lost. This novel is a complex portrait of African tribal society prior to European colonization. By employing masterful techniques of description, linguistic comparison and strong proverbial context, a chance is given to the reader to realize the rich traditions and customs that generated stability in that society. There are many structures of balance that the Ibo culture seems to depend upon. All of which contribute to the demise of the main character, Okonkwo, the Ibo religion, and ultimately, the Ibos' autonomy. This unraveling of affairs is spearheaded by a tremendous imbalance between notably masculine and feminine concepts. These yin and yang aspects, so to speak, might well be described as the external, physical strength of the male, opposed by the internal, passive strength of the female. Achebe formulates a brilliant dichotomy here. It will be the purpose of this essay to investigate these forces and to clarify Achebe's statement of the Western viewpoint of African culture, history and language.

Okonkwo, often compared and contrasted to many Western heroes, was born the son of Unoka. Unoka was known to be indolent and unsuitably idle. He preferred to stay at home playing his flute, drinking, and socializing, rather than toiling to cultivate and maintain the crops needed to support his family. Because of this, his father never had enough money, and his family went hungry. He carried a high level of debt in order to maintain this lifestyle. "If any money came his way . . . he immediately bought gourds of palm wine, called round his neighbors and made merry" (Achebe 4). Okonkwo perceived this as an imbalance toward the female, or passive, side of his father's character. Remaining home and not using one's strength to provide for the family is characteristic of how women behave. He works hard to rebuke Unoko's errant ways. Thus, Okonkwo rejects his father, and consequently, the feminine side of himself. He becomes a star wrestler and warrior in his tribe to provide for his family at a very young age. At the same time, he starts a new farm and begins to accumulate his own wealth, and eventually a title. His hard work proves itself in his success, and he soon becomes prominent and respected in his tribe. Having attained wealth, many wives and children, he feels that he has dominated over is father's feminine follies. His big ambition is to become one of the powerful elders of the tribe. Okonkwo feels stable and secure in his pursuit of masculinity in its extremes.

However, it soon becomes apparent that not everything is ideal. His son, Nwoye, is not quite living up to the expectations of becoming a man. "Nwoye . . . was already causing his father great anxiety for his incipient laziness" (Achebe 12). He favors his mother, preferring to listen to the women's stories, and is somewhat adverse to his father's tales of battle and victory2E Nwoye has many qualms about the practices of the tribe, thus making him very susceptible when missionaries come to Umuofia. Nwoye is attracted to the Christian religion of the white man because of its unqualified acceptance of everyone. This recognition seems to Nwoye to be as unconditional as a mother's love for her child.

Nwoye's conversion devastates Okonkwo. Although he has been harsh with his son, he still believes in Nwoye's potential to become a great clansman. Nwoye's rejection of Ibo values, however, strikes the dire blow to Okonkwo's hopes for him. In addition, Nwoye's actions undermine Okonkwo's own status and prestige, already damaged by his exile. It is, as Okonkwo thinks at the end of Chapter Seventeen, as though all of his hard work to distance himself from the legacy of his father is destroyed. Of this, Okonkwo reflects, "Living fire begets cold impotent ash" (Achebe 153), where fire is the powerful, destructive, male force, and ashes the inert, weak, female force.

Okonkwo sets to return to Umuofia proud and confident despite the tragedy of his son's grave transgression. He dreams of regaining his status, "[seeing] clearly the high esteem in which he [will] be held, and he even [sees] himself taking the highest title in the land" (Achebe 172). When he does return home, he finds that the church has changed things so much, that few take any interest at all. He has hoped that his daughter's marriages would help to bring him some reflected glory but, again, this does not garner Umuofia's attention.

The opportunity to be a warrior once again soon presents itself to Okonkwo. This is his last chance to recapture some of his lost glory. His motivations for wanting revenge, including his humiliation in jail, are deeply personal. Having been imprisoned for properly delivering tribal justice, Okonkwo prepares to act alone after being released. He dons the customary war dress, remembering his former magnificence in battle. The events of the past couple of days have brought leaders from all of the clan's nine tribes to a meeting the morning after Okonkwo and the other egwuwu are released. He strikes out at one of the court messengers sent to break up the meeting, and kills him with a swift blow of his machete. Okonkwo's fate is sealed, as the tribe does not respond in favor of his action. He wipes his machete clean and leaves to take his own life.

Unoka's words ring true in this discourse. "A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone" (Achebe 24-25). In fact, this serves as a fatalistic prediction of all the losses that Okonkwo experiences despite his constant efforts to distance himself from the model of indolence and irresponsibility that his father gave him. He values his personal success and status over the survival of the community and, having risen to the top of the clan's economic and political hap alone, he fails alone2E Okonkwo's lack of concern for the fate of his community is manifested when, before the clan-wide meeting, he doesn't bother to exchange greeting with anyone. He is ultimately only concerned about his own fate. Despite his life of hard work and the wealth and prestige, he dies alone in disgrace, as had his father. The ignominy is even carried through after his death, as the action of his suicide is deemed "an offense against the Earth" (Achebe 207). Therefore, he is denied a proper burial and decency even in death. Thus is how "things fall apart" for Okonkwo.

The Ibo religion falls in much the same way. This religion is centered about the worship of male gods and ancestors. The female god among these may be the Earth goddess, but Okonkwo offends this goddess three times in the story to save his masculine image. He does this when he beats his wife during the week of peace, when he strikes down his adopted son, and again when he inadvertently kills Ezeudu's son. The irony of his crimes is that they are committed in effort to assert his masculinity. The latter being the gravest. Killing a fellow clansman "was a crime of two kinds, male and female" (Achebe 124). Okonkwo committed the female, which meant it was unintentional2E This misfortune leads to his exile and eventual downfall. The gods' functions are mainly to help in war, and to aid the yearly yam harvest, which is considered a man's crop. The highest members in the religious organization, the egwuwu, are the most respected men in the society; during ceremonies, they get into costumes and play the role of the previously mentioned ancestors. Women do not participate in these customary ceremonies. The primary influence women have in this religion is in the role of the oracle, a woman, who embodies a male god. It is the women, also, who practice witchcraft, which is greatly feared in the tribes, but it should be noted that even this is a passive force with only intangible connections to any physical effects. In the novel, Chielo serves this function well and even garners the respect of the tribe that elevates her above the feminine station allotted to woman.

With the introduction of the Christian religion, which preaches universal acceptance, many members of the clan who are dissatisfied with the Ibo religion are drawn toward it. Some of the title-less men, or efulefu, who are described as 'women' in the tribe, soon become the most zealous of converts. Nwoye dislikes the practice of exposing supposedly evil twin babies in the woods, and feels that the senseless killing of Ikemefuna was wrong. This discontent with Ibo tradition immediately draws him to the new religion because it preaches that killing the innocent is wrong. This acceptance of all embodies what a leader of the people of Okonkwo's motherland said about the nature of the mother. Uchendu says to Okonkwo, "When there is sorrow and bitterness [a man] finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you" (134). These ideas filled a gap for many tribesmen that the Ibo religion could not fill, since it was so unbalanced toward the male. The Ibo religion thereafter grew less powerful.

The missionaries also on several accounts test the taboos of the Ibo religion. Among these digressions are the killing of the sacred python, the efulefu cutting their hair, and the building of the church in the Evil Forest. These direct challenges of traditional belief are dually resounding and only serve to contribute further to the downfall of the Ibo's sacred traditions. Eventually the tribesmen attempt to reverse this by killing and burning down the church, but the white man has taken hold. The attempt ends in failure, the hero dies shamefully and most of the tribe is converted. In effect, Achebe uses religion to demonstrate how "things fall apart."

In general, the way of life that the Ibo have enjoyed over many generations disintegrates from the influence of the European missionaries. Some of the wise elders say that Umuofia is getting weaker because the tribes have failed to intermix the way they once had, and instead are in constant competition with each other. Uchendu suggests this to Obierika when he visits Okonkwo during his exile by saying, "Those were the good days when a man had friends in distant clans. You generation does not know that. You stay at home, afraid of your next-door neighbor" (Achebe 137). Few of the tribal people understand the importance of the saying "mother is supreme," and therefore lose connection with their motherland. Okonkwo encourages his son to lose his connection with his own mother in favor of the connection with his father and thus his masculine side. In addition, when Okonkwo's daughter comes of the age to marry, Okonkwo feels it best not to deny the many suitors from his motherland, in order to have her marry someone in his fatherland. He does this in order to gain a better position there. Even within Umuofia, the tribes were so unfamiliar with each other, that they find some customs to be quite strange and foreign.

All these things serve to drive the tribes of Umuofia apart, creating an extreme imbalance between masculine and feminine forces. This sets them against each other, so that when a foreign influence is introduced, they are not able to come together and help each other. When the first missionary comes to Umuofia, he was killed because of the male ideas to dispatch unknown, foreign evils. The white man retaliates quickly by sending out soldiers and guns to annihilate the offending tribe. This serves as an example how male power could so easily fail when imbalanced. Soon, more missionaries come, but the Ibo allow them to stay because of what had happened before. The missionaries appeal for land to build a church on. In an attempt discourage the missionaries, the tribe allows its construction in the Evil Forest. Their beliefs assure them of the white man's eventual failure, but this is only serves the missionaries purpose of discrediting their religion when they ultimately survive.

Perhaps this feminine, or unknown, attribute of the evil woods allows the church to stand unaffected and even flourish despite the evils surrounding it. Here the author uses dialectic images to symbolize the descriptions of day and night. It might be apparent that the night belongs to the female, and the day belongs to the male. It is during the day that the males do their deeds. At night, they return home to the comfort of their wives' cooking and the comfort of their beds. It is also at night that the Oracle was most active, as was the witch. The men feared the night and all of the unknown things that dwelt there. However, during the night, the Oracle and the witch fearlessly walked the woods and practiced their magic. It might also be argued that the woods are also part of the night, for this is where the unknown evils lurk that might place indescribable hexes upon any intruders. Twin babies, committers of evil deeds, and the evil ogbanja spirits that haunted mothers were all thrown into the evil woods. The fear of the unknown and the practice of committing it as feminine create more imbalances on which the fate of the Ibo ultimately hinges.

The white man's introduction of their form of government is also displayed as evil in itself. The author seems to point this out, since the government imposed its own laws and ways upon the people without knowing anything about their own. This government had the power to enforce these laws with sheer physical power. Perhaps Achebe is also criticizing this disbalance of the masculine and feminine, but, in any case, the tribes' own physical power proves ineffectual against it, and in the end, they submit to these foreign influences, becoming subjects of the British Empire instead. By the time things begin to fall apart, it becomes clear that what the colonialists have unraveled is the complex Ibo culture, from one individual to the community as a whole.

The author definitely suggests that there is a balance to all systems, and that when that balance is lost, the system is reduced to chaos. This imbalance can be traced down to an inequity between masculine and feminine forces2E It must be considered as something analogous, on a similar didactic scale, and something to do with order versus entropy. In the quotation of Yeats's poem, this comes into play when the falconer loses control of the falcon as it spirals up into the skies. It is difficult to say what the outcome might have been if these forces had been more in harmony. It could be questioned what would have happened if Okonkwo had not offended the earth goddess and gained a position as a leader of the clan. In addition, it might be asked what would have occurred if his ambition had not pushed him in this perilous direction in the first place. Other questions arise regarding whether the Ibo religion could satisfy its constituents enough so that foreign influence did not become a threat; or whether as a whole, united completely, the Ibo could have stood up against the external influence and military power of the Europeans. Achebe does not seem to offer responses to these issues. He also does not infer that things would have been different if the Ibo could have been resistant to the ideas introduced by the foreigners. The author merely laments the death of this culture in spite of its weaknesses, and strives to counter the negative and stereotypical view of traditional African culture.

Things Fall Apart is presented in English from the viewpoint of the Ibo culture. It deals with how individual characters as well as the society as a whole deals with change. Achebe creates a masterpiece that presents the significance of balance. He argues that when this balance is lost, chaos ensues, and indeed, things fall apart.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Negative Sides of Igbo's Tradition in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"


This essay discusses the negative sides of Igbo’s tradition depicted in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. Nigeria is rich with its traditions and each is fruitful with its own laws. This certain traditon along with its aspects of live is abudantly found in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. This novel talks about Igbo’s tribe and their tradition. The Igbo has a very rich and interesting tradition which definitely carries a high moral values as well as lessons. However, this essay searches the Igbo's tradition from the view points of its negative sides with no means to insult the traditions but on the contrary to widely open our horizon of thinking as well as to enrich the tradition itself. This essay focusses on the ways on Igbo's life, such as; their belief, marriage, and social and political structures.

4.1 Unfair Treatment to the Twins
In general, Igbo people are proud of having many children and big families. They are like common people with a hope they could educate them until adult. They hope their children would help them when they are old. The Igbo treat the children based on their traditional way. But when a mother bears twins, it not only creates a new problem for the mother of the twins but also endanger the condition of all villages as well. That is why in order to anticipate the bad things the parents of the twins should treat them as their traditional do. They bring the twins to the forest and leave them to die. People are commonly afraid of the twins because according to their fortune tellers and traditional belief the birth of twins bring bad luck. The following quotation shows how they treat the twins unfairly:
The Igbo believe that there was something abnormal and mystical about the twins. When people ask for rain, they do not expect a flood. Twins birth represented excessive fertility and had to be kept in cheek. After leaving the babies in the bush to die, the mother would undergo extensive rituals intended to prevent her from bearing more twins. If appropriate measures were not immediately taken, not only the parents of twins but the entirely community might suffer (Achebe:p.26).

From the above quotation, we can draw some conclusion that the Igbo people treat cruelly the twins and kill them. They think that twins as a source of misfortune and many difficulties. They do this because they just follow the tradition. They never think that the twins are also their babies who need their protection and tenderness. They blindly commit to their belief. The born children who need their cares should be killed because they should uphold their tradition.
It is clear that what the Igbo people do to their twins is not fair and against the human feeling and justice. The animal itself has no heart to kill its child except the beast. The Igbo people themselves are mostly primitive and traditionally much influenced by their belief of their ancestors. They are still mystically connected. But after the coming of the white in Nigerian, their belief and old tradition get some changes.
Actually, the Igbo themselves just follow what their ancestors have done. They never have any alternatives to find the solution of the born twins. The only way they have to do is to throw away the twins to the forest. They never think that what they have done to their own blood is quite wrong and unacceptable by those who believe in God and love.

4.2 Unfair Treatment to the Killer
Okonkwo has been regarded in his clan as a brave man, and he is appointed as one of the leaders in Umuofia. He has led the Igbo people in many tribal wars, and he has killed many enemies in the wars. He has also given a high position in his clan for he has brought honor to his clan by defeating Amalinze, a wrestler who has never been defeated before, in a wrestling contest. He could marry three wives and has many children.
It is a tradition for the Igbo to have ceremony on certain days. During a funeral for one of the great men of the clan by sudden, Okonkwo touches his gun unpurposely and unluckily the gun shoots a boy and causes him dead. Okonkwo has no intention to do it as it happens at a sudden. However, Okonkwo should stick on the Igbo traditional custom. The following quotation shows what happens to Okonkwo after the killing:
The only course open to Okonkwo was to flee from the clan. It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman and a man who committed it must flee from the land. The crimes was of two kinds, male and female. Okonkwo had committed the female, because it had been inadvertent. He could return to the clan after seven years (Achebe:p.88).

From the above quotation, it can be seen that the punishment for a killer of a person from the same clan is to flee from the clan. This course also happens to Okonkwo. No one can help him. Though he is one of the respected men in Umuofia, the rule applies to all its citizens. The rule cannot be bargained. It applies to all without seeing its status or position in the clan and without considering whether the doer does it purposely or not.
Okonkwo should leave the clan and move to another place, and live in that place for seven years. Okonkwo is regarded as a man who has put dirt to the earth where he is living on it. Okonkwo cannot refuse the punishment. Inevitably, he must obey the traditional custom of this clan.
Worse, the effect of the killing is not only to the killer but also to his family, and even to his properties. The people would do the traditional custom. They believe that what they do to the killer is the justice for the earth goddess. The following quotation shows how and what the Umuofians do to Okonkwo’s compound and properties:

As soon as the day broke, a large crowd of men from Ezeudu’s quarter stormed Okonkwo’s compound, garbs of war. They set fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals and destroyed his barn. It was the justice of the earth goddess, and they were merely her messengers. They had no hatred in their hearts against Okonkwo who had polluted with the blood of a clansman (Achebe:p.88).

The above quotation tells us the unfair treatment to Okonkwo’s family and his properties. The crowd come together to his house to destroy his belongings, killing his animals and burn the house. From the quotation above, it can also be seen that the action is not based on the revenge for the death nor hatred for the killer but merely for the sake of their tradition and belief. They regard Okonkwo has polluted their lord by killing his clansman.
From the quotation above, it can be inferred that what have been done to Okonkwo is not fair because he has killed the boy accidentally, the gun in his hand explodes itself. It is also unfair to punish someone without any assistance to help him. Okonkwo is one of the leaders in the clan, and he has ever brought honor to the clan.
Okonkwo is strongly committed to the Igbo tradition. He does not want to argue about his mistake. He is just like a person who never becomes the member of the Igbo. He knows that he has lost his place among his people. He has lost the chance to lead the war of his clan against the white religion, which, he is told, has gained ground. He has lost the years in which he might have taken the highest titles in the clan.

4.3 Unfair Treatment to the Leprosy and Small Pox Sufferers
Another negative sides of tradition found in Things Fall Apart is that Igbo people do not appreciate the Leprosy and small pox sufferers. They consider that the leprosy and small pox sufferers as useless people in the society. Therefore, they are thrown away from the village. The people that suffer from the evil diseases are thrown away to the evil forest.
This place is believed as a dangerous area because the Igbo people throw the body of the leprosy and small pox sufferers to the area. Therefore, they believe that the area is full of evil spirits. The following quotation shows how the leprosy and small pox sufferers are treated:

Every clan and village had its “evil forest”. In it were buried all those who died of the really evil disease, like leprosy and small pox. It was also the dumping ground for the potent fetishes of great medicine men when they died. An “evil forest” was, therefore, alive with sinister force of darkness. It was suck a forest that the rulers of Mbanta gave to the missionaries (Achebe: p.105).

From the above quotation, it can be concluded that the Igbo people will not treat those who suffer from leprosy and small pox well. They regard that the sick would not only bring badness and misfortune for them as the members of society but also endanger the entire place. They send and isolate the leprosy sufferers to the special place and hope they would die there. This place is believed by the Igbo full evil. They call the area as “evil forest”. The leprosy and small pox sufferers are expected to die soon because they think that the disease can endanger their life.
The unfair treatment that the Igbo people give to the leprosy and small pox sufferers is actually against the fundamental of human values. The sick should be well treated and given a special attention. They should not be isolated as they need friends to comfort their heart and lighten their suffering. However, what they expect is beyond their wish. They have to face the unfair treatment from their own clan.

4.4 Unfair Treatment to the Body of Those Committing Suicide
Okonkwo is frustrated and deeply disappointed to his followers. What is expected from them is far from the fact. He decides to commit suicide by hanging himself on the tree. But for Igbo people, committing suicide is regarded as a shameful death. It is prohibited and against their traditional norms. The following quotation shows how the Igbo treat someone who has committed suicide:
……they came to the tree from which Okonkwo’s body was hanging, and they stopped dead. The district commission asked, ”why can not take him down yourselves? He asked. It is against our custom” said one of the Igbo. Only the strangers may touch it. It is an abomination for a man who commits. It will not be buried by his clansman. “His body is evil,” said one of the Igbo (Achebe:p.147).

From the above quotation, it can be seen that the Igbo people treat badly the body of Okonkwo who has committed suicide. They do not care whether the person is their ex-hero or respected man. They feel detested to the body. Okonkwo who has committed suicide is unfairly treated. They let his body hang on for along time on the tree till the strangers come to take him down. They are not allowed to touch Okonkwo’s corpse because it is believed that the body is full of dirt that can endanger their life and clan. Therefore, they cannot bury the body. The body can only be buried by outsiders or strangers. As it happens to the body of Okonkwo, they ask the white men to bury the corpse in hurry for they believe that the dead has stained their land. The Igbo will make a special sacrifice later to clean the land. They think that their place has been dirty due to the body of those committing suicide.

4.5 Unlimited Number of Wives
Polygamy is a marriage in which a man marries more than one wife. A man does polygamy with various reasons or background. It can be due to physical, political and traditional purposes. As it happens in Igbo’s traditional custom, polygamy is not only allowed but also requested. The more wives an Igbo man has, the more prestigious he will be in his community. The following quotation proves the above description.
In Igbo’s marriage, polygamy is not prohibited, even they are requested. Having several women in a household enhance not only a man’s status.... (Achebe: p. 22).

From the above quotation, it is clear that polygamy is allowed in Igbo society and even it is regarded as an indication that the man has a high social status in the clan. The First wife also helps her husband to find other woman to be the wives for his husband. If an Igbo man has mane wives, he has enhanced not only status in the clan but also the status of his first wife. It means that the first wife will be more prestigious if her husband has many wives. The following quotation proves the above description.

The prestige of the first wife as the head women of household, she shares every title that the man might acquire. She presided over household deliberations. Most men preferring not to get personally involved, except in emergencies. Junior wives enjoy the security and prosperity that large household provided, in addition, Igbo women had rights and freedoms that they are jealousy guarded. They lived in their separated house, cooked for themselves, and raised their children (Achebe: p.22).

From the above quotation, it is clear that the first wife will get a better status in household if their husband marries another woman. She will be the head of women in the big families. This attitude is, as a matter of facts would give only a little profit for the woman. In other sides, the woman has opened a chance for the man to have unlimited number of women. The below statement can be shown in this quotation:

There was a wealthy man in Okonkwo’s village who had three huge barns, nine wives, and thirty children. His name was Ogbuefi and he had taken the highest but one title which a man could take in the clan (Achebe: p.14).

From the quotation above, it can be seen that polygamy upheld by the Igbo people is really unfair because an Igbo people can have unlimited numbers of wives. The wealthier the man is the more women he can marry, and the more wives he has the more prestigious he will be. Besides, the polygamy itself is merely for the sake of the able persons while the purpose of the polygamy is to seek for social status, because the numbers of wives will enhance man’s status in his society. It is very strange that such a thing is welcome by Igbo’s women. We do not know exactly the main reasons why they support their husband to marry other women. Therefore, polygamy which Igbo people uphold is not suitable for the present condition