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Generally, post-colonialism theory in literature is concerned with colonization, decolonization, and neo-colonialism. The history of cultural and literature interactions is believed to have been the cause of the late capitalism and postmodernism whereby multinational corporations took control of the world. As from the time of renaissance to postmodernism, there was omnipresent power struggles and intersections between cultures. The struggles and intersections, in turn, resulted into multiculturalism and the emergence of poly-valent cultures. Therefore, this paper explains diaspora as one of the historic and cultural literature in the concepts of metaphysical, political, and ethical perspectives of ethnicity, nationalism, gender, identity, subjectivity, language, race, and power. This analysis supports the ideas laid down by the writer, Chinua Achebe, in the novel, “Thins Fall Apart.”
As mentioned earlier, one of the key concerned explained by post-colonialism is the issue of Diaspora. People sharing collective memories and myths from their original or imaginary homelands form the diaspora (Childs & Williams 14). They are believed to have been moved or dispersed from where they would call home and form inherited ideologies which create personal and collective identities as members of the same community. As a result of migration, these people negotiate their own culture as they merge with the culture of their hosts. This type of interaction results into a mixture of cultural beliefs and identities (Childs & Williams 78). From this view, diaspora-related theories describe a home as mythic place with no possibilities of return despite the fact that the immigrants can visit their place of origin.
Historically, the term diaspora traces its origin from the Hebrew Bible where displaced people were considered to be in exile. Originally, the term was used in English to denote the Jewish diaspora as the immigrant or refugee populations (Kenalemang Np). In essence, the original notion of diaspora came as a result of evictions due to violence and unnatural uprooting to new homelands. However, the modern perceptions indicate diaspora in a corporate way which describes it as movements related to contemporary displacement, migration, and transnational mobility (Childs & Williams 74).
In the “Things Fall Apart,” Chinua Achebe develops a literary construction involving post-colonialism where people seek for identities and social expectations and obligations. In a diaspora-related approach, Achebe uses the Igbo community to describe Onkonkwo’s experiences as “rising and falling” (Achebe 14). Entirely, Achebe’s work expresses the need of self-discovery. According to him, an African can discover and establish his or her identity by establishing his roots. He observes that the aftermath of colonialism was a massive erosion of the African traditional values amid the exposure to Western culture. Eventually, there was massive advances regarding the natives’ way of life where customs and habits were altered in many African countries.
In the novel’s first part, Achebe describes the African Diaspora using tribal ceremonies. He highlights the determination and strong will expressed by Onkonkwo, ideals that earns him a position as a lord in the Igbo society (Achebe 24). Onkonkwo is presented as prosperous and a man who does not admit failure, being a great worrier in the community. For example, the writer explains an incidence where a farmer committed suicide after poor harvest. In response, Onkonkwo tried to prevent loosing his head but his father, Unoka, warned him against despair. Unoka expressed his confidence in his son as a manly person who had a proud heart ((Achebe 74). On his part, Onkonkwo affirmed that he was ready to face the challenge as he maintained that if he would survive the year, he would thereafter survive any other difficulty.
The second part highlights Onkonkwo’s life in exile, which can be equated to the other diaspora. At first, his people back at home believed that he must have been industrious and successful as usual. It is until seven years are over that the society realizes that he has been cast from his clan (Achebe 94). However, his younger uncle, Uchendu, advises him that his duty is to look at his wives as well as their children and resettle them in his fatherland. He continues to tell him to avoid being weighed down by sorrows and let them die while in exile. It was during this time that the missionaries arrived in Mbanta village and introduced their new gods. Although Onkonkwo and the villagers did not like the missionaries, they were interested in Christianity. Particularly, Onkonkwo was not happy in Mbanta and wanted to offer a feast to the kinsmen belonging to his mother (Achebe 108). He wanted to show his gratitude to the kinsmen for being good to him.
Finally, Onkonkwo returns home after seven years in exile as detailed in the third part of the novel. His homeland, Umoufia, had greatly changed and missionary churches were all over (Achebe 134). He thought that his influence would be memorable. To is disappointment, the clan was totally different and falling apart. His demise comes at a time when he kills one of the Court messengers who tries to stop a meeting. He thinks that Umuofia clan would not go into war but soon realizes that he is alone. Every person in the community has adapted the new order of neocolonialism. He can no loner cope with the new form of governance and its humiliation, hence, he decides to commit suicide, an incidence that led him to “being buried like a dog” (Achebe 202).
From the above observations Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart” is an insightful story that links two intertwined social and cultural processes that depict two diaspora, the African and European. The book is entirely situated in an intersection state between precolonial Africa and Westernization, a fact that enables the reader to foresee the eventuality of the post-colonial period. The transition is marked by words like, “fortunately, among this people, a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father (Achebe 183). This statement illustrates a combination of “they,” the Euro-Christians, and “we,” the African tradition (Kenalemang Np). Eventually, the Africans are fully transformed into new cultural perceptions that are associated with neocolonialism and capitalism.
Critically, Achebe’s writings are inspirational to other writers in the African literature. The novel intercepts neo-colonial forces and the natural allies of social expectations and obligations that any writer can use as the basis of his or her writings (Kenalemang Np). Although the novel is more historically aligned, it mirrors tge attitude among Africans whereby they actively engage in the struggle for existence in the contemporary world by adopting the prevalent culture as well as religion. The diaspora connection further indicates the emergence of Christian Missions, the rise of British Colonial Rule, and the eventual multi-ethnic cultural framework (Kenalemang Np). Therefore, the novel forms a great motivation towards discovering personal and national identity among the communities living in the post-colonial times.
One of the critics of Achebe’s writings is the fact that he uses English in his work, a language that he perceives as a foreign language that was imposed by the colonial regime. Readers in the post-colonial times are able to understand his writings because they are written in a dominant language that they are taught (Keown Np). As far much as he questions other aspects of literature from the colonists, he does not indicate any problem with the language, meaning that not all of the cultures introduced are bad. Although he includes some quotes in Ibo language, English is dominant in a way that indicates that it is equally or even more important.
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Secondly, the novel cannot be considered as the first documentation of African literature. It is true to say that the novel was among the first written literature in English, but African literature began a long time ago with oral tradition to vernacular writings as done by D. O. Fagunwa and Thomas Mfolo (Keown Np). Besides, having been educated in the missionary system, he had no advance knowledge of the past, hence, he depended on previous records to develop his accounts. It is also noted that Achebe did not elaborate the role of women in the post-colonial era (Keown Np). The most prevalent and influential characters in both the African culture and the missionaries are males. However, the development of Western education and civilization influenced equality to men and women. Therefore, the novel should have placed women in the view of contemporary societal transformations.
Post-colonialism theory highlights the history of cultural and literature interactions between communities as the cause of the late capitalism and postmodernism whereby multinational corporations took control of the world. As from the time of renaissance to postmodernism, there was omnipresent power struggles and intersections between cultures. According to Achebe, the struggles and intersections resulted into multiculturalism and the emergence of poly-valent cultures which displaced the traditional Igbo culture. Onkonkwo is shown as a character who goes through two different societies, at home and at exile. As he comes back to his fatherland, he meets a society with a totally different perception which does not consider the value of their gods or the ancestors. Therefore, through changes in the cultural diaspora, the concepts of ethnicity, nationalism, gender, identity, subjectivity, language, race, and power are altered to fit the contemporary or prevailing social attributes. The ideas laid down by the writer, Chinua Achebe, in the novel, “Things Fall Apart,” shows that post-colonialism is to blame for the change of traditions in the Igbo community as well as other African colonies.
- Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Oxford: Heinemann Educational, 1959. Print.
- Childs P. & Williams P. An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theory. Routledge Publishers. 2014 Print.
- Kenalemang M. L. Things Fall Apart: An Analysis of Pre and Post-Colonial Igbo Society. Diva-portal.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 14 Dec. 2017.
- Keown, Michelle, David Murphy, and James Procter. “Introduction: Theorizing Postcolonial Diasporas.” N.p., 2017. Print.