Tension and Conflict in Things Fall Apart and Clear Light of Day
How does the tension between traditional and modern views of the
world play itself out in Achebe's "Things Fall Apart", and Desai's
"Clear Light of Day"?
In both Achebe's and Desai's novels, tension and conflict between
the new and the old, traditional and modern are the strong undercurrents
that move the story and the reader into an unconscious emotional uneasiness.
In both novels, the backdrop and the story are engrossed in a struggle
between two worlds, the new and the old fighting out its battles in the
characters portrayed within. Achebe makes his stand in eastern Nigeria
while Desai illustrates her point in Old Delhi.
In the first part of "Things Fall Apart", Achebe, portrays a
traditional African culture, but one on the verge of change. Early in the
novel you can see change is already taking place. "...in the past a man who
broke the peace was dragged on the ground throughout the village until he
died. But after a while this custom was stopped because it spoiled the
peace which it was meant to preserve." But traditions continued on,
including ritual killing and banishment of one of the village leaders. But
then things begin to change more rapidly with the coming of the
missionaries. When they gave them the "evil forest" to build their
churches on there was no turning back. Many of the abused and outcast were
converted when they saw that these new people prospered in the evil lands.
The people started to revolt against their traditional gods. "Three
converts had gone into the village and boasted openly that all the gods
were dead and impotent" They were beaten severely. With the coming of
governmen t the Christians gained power and shook the faith of the old ways.
I believe the book pivots on this statement:
"Does the white man understand our custom about land? How can he when he
does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad. How
do you think we can fight when our own bothers have turned against us? The
white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceable with his religion.
We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won
our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife
on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart."
It is interesting how the whole process came about. The missionary
"Mr. Brown" came in with his soft approach and gained the respect of the
clan. Then came along "Mr. Smith" The missionary with the black and
white, hard handed approach. It was this iron fist that was the last straw
for this clan. Okonkwo, the respected leader couldn't take any more.
After helping burn down the church and killing a messenger...