23 May 2013

‘Things Fall Apart’ and the case against imperialism


by Sankara Kamara

*Sankara Kamara is a Sierra Leonean academic and freelance writer. You can catch him on Facebook: www.facebook/sankara kamara 

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When Chinua Achebe showed the horrors of colonial rule in ‘Things Fall Apart,’ the narrative easily became the African story that impinged itself on our consciousness. The novel epitomized the case against imperialism

The death of the renowned Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, has thrust one of the most popular African books in the news. 

Although Achebe wrote multiple books and produced several works of scholarship, ‘Things Fall Apart’ acted as the catalyst for his popularity, sending the Nigerian writer to the highest plateaus of academic fame. 

How did ‘Things Fall Apart,’ a book written about the Igbo people in Nigeria, become an explanatory voice for colonially oppressed societies all over Africa? The literary tenor used by Achebe to write ‘Things Fall Apart,’ is the first reason behind the book’s popularity. 

Any exhaustive commentary on ‘Things Fall Apart,’ must recognize the book’s flair for weaving Igbo words and phrases with the English language. By partly Africanizing the English language to tell an African story, Achebe was able to show a pre-colonial Igbo society equipped with the ability for self-rule. 

Through the book’s main character, Okonkwo, Achebe showed how pre-colonial Igbo society dealt with crime and punishment. When Okonkwo committed what could be termed in today’s legal systems as manslaughter, the response from the oracles at Umuofia was swift and judicious. 

Once it became clear that Okonkwo’s accidentally-discharged gun was responsible for killing a citizen of the land, the oracles pronounced a verdict, which ordered Okonkwo’s seven-year exile from the land he loved. Despite his enormous stature in Igbo society, Okonkwo was subjected to the rule of law through a cultural edict, forcing a seemingly untouchable man into seven anguishing years of exile.