Acclaimed Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart, is a story about Okonkwo, a man from the fictional village of Umuofia. Okonkwo’s attempt to form an idealized self-identity and the stress he experiences in living up to its image wears his life, and eventually destroys the very identity he so desperately sought. Okonkwo’s end is analogous to the end of his tribe and its culture—Achebe refers to the Igbo peoples’ culture as the Ibo culture in his book. Furthermore, Okonkwo’s end shows the pain experienced by the change in power balances as the rulers became the ruled, with the white man colonizing Africa. The Heart of Darkness hardly needs an introduction; Joseph Conrad, its writer, wrote the novella based on his experiences as a captain on the Congo. The protagonist is Charles Marlow, whose impression of the colonized Congo basins along with its tribal inhabitants and the raiding white men amidst the deep, dark, disease-infested forests of Congo form the basis of the story. Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness are both based around situations that instigate the awe-inspiring, and yet horrifying confluence of races and cultures. However, while the former tells the story from the colonized peoples’ perspective, the latter tells it from the colonizers’ perspective. This paper attempts to highlight the differences and similarities in these novels by exploring the underlying themes and unusual circumstances portrayed in them.
The novels Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness are illustrations of the baser aspects of human nature, both in their content and the manner in which they deal with the subject of subjugation, violence, and suffering during historical interracial confluences. This fact is illustrated by the following points:
1. In their contents, Things Fall Apart illustrates the issues in Africa instigated by colonialism, and Heart of Darkness shows the fear and cruelty of the colonizing Westerners, who set about colonizing the world. However, in his approach Conrad exhibits the same fear he despises as an author.
2. The books reveal limited viewpoints and one-sided outlooks in dealing with the subject of human relations across social barriers.
3. While both the books deal with psychological trauma associated with nationality and humanity, Heart of Darkness is humane, but racist in its approach, symbolizing the attitude of an entire “advanced” generation. Contrastingly, Things Fall Apart is morosely loathing toward cultural attitudes in Africa that resulted in a dangerous implosion, while being protective and venerating to the beauty of such a culture.
Point 1: Heart of Darkness, as starkly haunting as it is, clearly shows the fear of the unknown. For instance, the problems caused by the white occupation have been highlighted in the novel, such as in the manner in which ivory was sought by the black people, as their escape from slavery: “The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed....