Presentation on theme: "The imagery Achebe utilizes to depict the confrontation between the people of Umuofia and the white messengers illustrates the paralytic effects of colonialism."— Presentation transcript:
The imagery Achebe utilizes to depict the confrontation between the people of Umuofia and the white messengers illustrates the paralytic effects of colonialism on indigenous populations. When respected orator Okika begins to discuss the Ibo people’s need to drive out the white settlers, a “deep murmur swept through the crowd”, indicating tacit agreement among the villagers that the white men must go (Achebe 203). However, the moment white messengers arrive to end the meeting, the “men of Umuofia were merged into the mute blackcloth of trees and giant creepers, waiting” (Achebe 204). Achebe’s choice to describe the men as ‘merged’ into the background by the arrival of white men indicates that fear of the Europeans’ colonial power renders the people of Umuofia incapable of acting in opposition to colonialism. After Okonkwo kills the head messenger, the villagers “[broke] into tumult instead of action. He discerned fright in that tumult” (Achebe 205). Even though they internally oppose colonial power, they are too afraid to combat it openly. Their fear renders them as unable to alter their environment as the ‘trees and giant creepers’ in the background. Moreover, Achebe describes the villagers’ paralysis as a “spell”, which illustrates the mysteriousness and omnipotence of the colonizers’ power over the Ibo people. The villagers’ inability to motivate themselves to act against colonial rule mirrors the helplessness of a person under a magician’s spell. The arrival of the white messengers places the people of Umuofia into a stupor that they cannot break out of by themselves, but must rely on the white men to break for them. Indigenous populations such as the Ibo have very little control over their paralysis in the face of colonial rule. Colonialism, therefore, manages to subjugate indigenous populations by frightening them opposition into inaction until their culture is destroyed and it is too late to save it.
Things Fall Apart is a novel about the woes of an African clan after Christian missionaries come to convert their people. The story centers around Okonkwo as he struggles throughout his life caused by his clan traditions and provoked emotions from the missionaries. Upon returning from exile to his fathers' land he finds how lenient his people were to allow the missionaries to stay. Okonkwo's act of suicide is cowardly because of the nature of killing himself, leaving his family and friends behind to deal with the situation, and the idea that he couldn't face the consequences of his actions. The very act of suicide is cowardly. The reason why the act of suicide is cowardly is because of one thing: the act of killing oneself goes against every single possible human instinct. It is simply not natural, and to defy an instinct such as survival is one of serious sickness. Suicide is a very touchy subject in recent times. About a week ago a very popular celebrity, Robin Williams, had just committed suicide. In past times suicide was always seen as the wimpy way to go. If someone couldn't handle their own problems and they were too weak to try to fix it they would commit suicide. To purposely be hung like Okonkwo did is just an inhumane thing to do. People have a general consensus that killing other things or other humans is bad but killing oneself just goes against both that natural law and the law of survival of the fittest. It is when Okonkwo returns to his home land when he starts to contemplate suicide, because he has to control his emotions and warlike attitude in order to do what's best for the clan even if he does not agree. After a rally in which the Christian missionaries arrive at, Okonkwo kills one out of uncontrolled rage and that is when he makes the decision to kill himself.
All of Okonkwo’s worries in this novel stem from his fear of ending up like his impoverished and untitled father whom he “had no patience for” (Achebe, 4). His fear first appears when he is a young boy and follows him from a young age, driving him to become “one of the greatest men of his time” (Achebe, 7). However, the same feats that are accomplished due to his fear make him paranoid. Okonkwo is terrified that through some twist of fate everything that has been afforded him will be taken away, and it is. Okonkwo becomes exactly like his father, losing all titles and wealth in exile, along with his eldest son to the soft, “feminine” ways of the white missionaries. Okonkwo’s fatal act is not one of cowardice, rather one of acceptance. The Umuofia believe that their chi dictates their life and success, and Okonkwo’s clearly called for failure. He “did not have the start in life which many young men usually had,” and no matter hard he worked he couldn’t overcome that (Achebe, 11). Okonkwo lived his whole life denying his chi, becoming wealthy and respected; however, Okonkwo is left penniless and in exile through a freak accident. His suicide is his acceptance of his chi’s control over his life; Okonkwo’s death is his way of fulfilling his destiny as dictated by his chi. By committing suicide, Okonkwo is an “abomination” and he must be set apart from his clansmen forever (Achebe, 117). Okonkwo’s father was also referred to as an “abomination against the earth goddess” and was thus left in the woods to die alone (Achebe, 12). Okonkwo realizes that he is fated to become just like his father and gives in to the will of his chi, making he and his father similar even in death, hanging himself from a tree and becoming an abomination.