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The novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe creates a powerful story that paints an intricate portrait of the Ibo culture in Africa. The author analyzes the destruction of African culture in Nigeria after the appearance of the "white man." Achebe tells the story of a Nigerian man, Okonkwo, who confronts English colonial powers and struggles to save his culture and identity from the colonization of the Europeans. Although the novel is "unique and richly African, at the same time it reveals Achebe's keen awareness of the human qualities common to men of all time and places" (back cover). The author chooses to convey this story in a novel form, as opposed to simply spewing the story in impersonal paragraphs, in order to provide a detailed and thorough understanding of the Ibo culture. This decision allows him to use effective narrative devices, such as symbolism, narrative irony and foreshadowing, which projects an elaborate and meaningful presentation of the story by adding interest and contributing to the many themes of the novel.
Achebe uses symbolism, with the sharing of the kola nut amongst clansman. This symbol represents peace and goodwill between the tribe. The practice diffuses tension felt between clansmen that may otherwise turn violent. For example, when a neighbour visits Unoka, Okonkwo's father, early in the novel to collect a debt he does not immediately address the debt when he enters Unoka's house. Instead, the two men first share a kola nut (6). The clansman emphasize, through this custom, the common interests and culture that they share while diminishing any discomfort or uneasiness felt between the two men. The ritual also contributes to the theme of Ibo traditions and enriches the readers understanding of the profound culture of the Ibo people. Another example of kola nut sharing, or lack thereof, is when Okonkwo offers the kola nut to the priest after beating his wife during the week of peace. The priest deems Okonkwo's actions unacceptable and refuses the peace offering that Okonkwo proposes when he says, "Take away your kola nut. I shall not eat in the house of a man who has no respect for our God and ancestors" (30). The refusal of the nut demonstrates the priest's disapproval of Okokwo's actions, but in a peaceful manner.
Achebe uses a great deal of narrative irony to enhance the reader's literary experience. The most blatant example is his decision to relay the story in the English language as opposed to African dialect. Why would Achebe write his story in English when he is trying to recreate a non-English culture? The author answers this question when he says that "English is the national, administrative, legal and literary language of both the West African's living in ex-British colonies and the white man...where am I to find the time," he says, "to learn the half dozen or so Nigerian languages?" (The African Writer and the English Language," Morning Yet on Creation Day, 1976). A vital point to keep in mind is that the novel is intended for both English-speaking Africans and Westerners. Therefore, although it seems ironic for the author to write in English, this choice serves a greater purpose because is enables the Achebe to communicate to both ethnic groups. This source of narrative irony adds to the themes of language and culture in the novel, given that a key conflict between the two nations is the their lack of effective communication and as a result, the development of major culture clashes. A concern for this langua
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Names referenced in this essay
Okonkwo, the Achebe, Nwoye, Ikemefuna, Okwonko, Obierike, Abraham,
Organizations referenced in this essay
Ibo, reader high,
Locations included in this essay
the Africans, Nigeria, Umuofia,
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Achebe, Okonkwo, the reader, kola nut, Ibo people, africans, nigerians, African culture, Chinua Achebe, paragraphs, clansman, foreshadowing, young boy, westerners, negative stereotypes, oracle, husband and wife, colonial powers, language barrier, Nigerian languages, twins, literary language, young people, uncivilized, common practice, comic relief, priest, one point, Christian faith, Christianity, colonization, kinship, Umuofia, suspense, converts, debt, sharing, main, complex, ridiculing, fallacious, verisimilitude, suffice, colonist, ironic, worries, non English, religon, shows, incipient,