Achebe's Impartiality In Things Fall Apart
Knowledge of Africa and the inhabitants of the massive continent were often portrayed as barbaric beasts by the first missionaries to enter the land. Because of skewed writings by European missionary workers, a picture was painted for their readership of a savage Africa saved only by the benevolent, civilized western influence. Achebe successfully attempts to redirect this attitude. Achebe educationally has the means to convey a different perspective, an advantage most other individuals of his culture lack. In his novel Things Fall Apart, rather than glorifying the Ibo culture, or even offering a new view, Achebe acts as a pipeline for information to flow freely without partiality. Achebe's parents were among the first converts of the Igbo, which has exposed him to both the Igbo African culture and western Christian ideology, and can therefore explicate his meaning and experiences from both sides. Achebe is, without doubt, an African novelist, not a novelist writing about Africa; he seems neither to condemn the missionary system, nor condone it. I plan to prove that Achebe portrays the missionary with the same objectivity as he does the Ibo culture in Things Fall Apart.
Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born in Nigeria, but not into a traditional Nigerian home. His mother and father were both converts and "devout Christians" (1). In an interview appearing in The Paris Review at the Unterberg Poetry Center, Achebe says, "they were not just converts; my father was an evangelist, a religious teacher. He and my mother traveled for thirty-five years to different parts of Igboland, retired, and returned with his family to his ancestral village" (interview). Achebe was baptized Albert Chinualumogu Achebe after Queen Victoria's Prince Albert. Upon entering Government College, Umuahia, he would change his name to the present "Chinua Achebe."
InThings Fall ApartThe entrance of the missionary was peaceful and amiable. The accumulation of a congregation was a slow process. Mr. Kiaga, the interpreter in charge of the congregation, was "firm" and it was this trait that "saved the young church" (157, Ach). His strong faith and new beliefs were inspirational to those clansmen that had ever questioned the Ibo practices. Mr. Brown, a white missionary, was characterized as "respected even by the clan" (178, Ach). Mr. Brown was even offered a gift by one of the neighboring villages, "which was a sign of his dignity and rank" (179, Ach). He did not simply preach his ideas, but educated himself in the tribe's culture through conversations with the clansmen. Mr. Brown opened a school and hospital in Umofia. "And it was not long before the people began to say that the white man's medicine was quick in working. Mr. Brown's school produced quick results" (181, Ach). Achebe chooses to characterize a missionary such as Mr. Brown favorably to create for the...