The Loss Of A Tribe's Livelihood In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

1572 words - 6 pages

Things Fall Apart: The Loss of a Tribe's Livelihood  

In Things Fall Apart we witnessed the destruction of a traditional native culture. More specifically we witnessed the challenge and weakening of Igbo spirituality, as well as the death of the tribe's livelihood. The apparent cause can be found in a seemingly good intended mission acting as a gateway for the intrusion of a foreign government, and its quest to conquer and domesticate a self-sustaining, prosperous culture. Although the Igbo downfall was caused primarily by the invasion of "Christian missionaries," their own religious doctrine and passivity played a significant role in allowing the initial infiltration of an alien religion, and the final dissolution of a once prosperous culture.

It is also critical to consider if this downfall could have been prevented or channeled to produce a positive outcome. History tends to repeat itself within specific cultures, and this is possibly the most valuable tool we can harness to provide us a means of escaping the destruction of the mistakes we have made in the past.

In Things Fall Apart the Igbo village Umuofia fell apart in two distinct fashions. The first aspect of Igbo culture to break down was the village's spirituality, which was led by the arrival of the Christian mission. Second, this mission acted as a channel to allow a new government to infiltrate Umuofia and challenge the laws and customs that held together the former Igbo way of life.

Igbo spirituality weakened in two waves. First Christianity provided answers that the inhabitants of Umuofia and Mbanta were seeking. At the end of Part One Obierika's thoughts are expressed:

Obierika was a man who thought about things. When the will of the goddess had been done, he sat in his obi and mourned his friend's calamity. Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently? But although he thought for a long time he found no answer. He was merely led into greater complexities. He remembered his wife's twin children, whom he had thrown away. What crime had they committed? (TFA 87).

The timing of this passage falls in between a thorough account of Igbo customs and the conversion of many Igbo people to Christianity. This transition seems to indicate that there is a representative attitude of doubt and discontentment within Umuofia (and later indicated to be similar in Mbanta). Customs such as throwing away twins and human sacrifice were troubling and no justification could be found within their own religious doctrine. The timeliness of Christianity allowed it to spread because it was the only available option to turn to. The villagers needed answers to explain the uncertainties they were feeling and Christianity was the only plausible option. This attitude is again characterized by Nwoye while he is in Mbanta:

It was not the mad logic of the Trinity that captivated him. He did not understand it . . . . The hymn about brothers who sat in...

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