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The importance of this text can be seen in its worldwide distribution as an authentic narrative about the horrors of the colonialist experience from the eyes of the colonized. This daring perspective brought to the world the figure of Okonkwo, a powerful and respected village elder who cannot single-handedly repel the invasion of foreign culture into his village. The book has been taught in a variety of contexts from cultural history to anthropology to literature and world history classes. Its application to such a number of fields reveals its historical importance in the world.
Things Fall Apart is a tragic and moving story of Okonkwo and the destruction of the village of Umuofia by the colonialist enterprise. This novel reveals colonialism as a traumatic experience common to all former colonial territories. The administration that was implemented endeavored to shift the people away from the superstitious and what they saw as primitive practices of their culture to the supposedly more “civilized” precepts of Christianity. Achebe does not gloss over the cruelty and superstition that prevailed in Igbo culture; in fact, he even shows that it was partly many of the elders’ rigid adherence to traditions that seemed inhuman and outdated that paved the way for the disintegration of the tribe and their ultimate fall.
In Things Fall Apart, Achebe carefully makes the readers aware that the traditional Igbo culture that Okonkwo claims to represent varied from clan to clan and was very dynamic. Okonkwo’s flaw is his rigidity. Achebe is critical of any culture that is stagnant. Where preservation of the clan or group is the first priority, obsession with cultural traditions can be dangerous.
In truth, Things Fall Apart, was not only educating his African readers but Western readers as well. Achebe’s achievements in fact was that he communicated meaningfully both with his Western readers, who were for the most part ignorant of the material he was handling, and with those who knew it very intimately. He is perhaps the only African writer to have bridged this gap with complete success as well as delicacy and tact.Post Colonialist Literature
An interesting trend of literature that has emerged in the past thirty years is post colonialism. It is not just a trend but can also be considered a literary style. This kind of writing emerged after the de-colonization of various African, Asian and South American nations by erstwhile European colonial powers Portugal, Spain, France, Germany and Britain and hails from those nations that were colonized. The colonizing experience that the colonized (i.e. the natives) and the colonizers undergo is narrated in such texts. The colonized mainly speak of the trauma, humiliation and slave mentality induced in their psyche. The colonizers write of their own experience which, according to them, is no less traumatizing. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe writes of the actual moment of colonization with the arrival of missionaries and the administrative apparatus of Britain at the turn of the century. In No Longer at Ease, the legacy of colonization is brought out. His other works describe issues connected with colonization. His peculiarity is that he works in the genre of the English novel although his concerns are mainly African. Another celebrated Nigerian writer is Wole Soyinka, who uses theater as a more traditional form to vent his views on the same issues.