Tag Archives: TFA

Analysing the effect of having many details about Ibo culture in Part 1 of TFA

3 May

Throughout part 1 of the novel Things Fall Apart, we notice that Achebe has described several different details about Ibo culture and society, through the plot and the actions of the characters. He tells us about the Ibo traditions, their lifestyles, their laws, etc. But why has he done this? The key reason is to teach his audience that the Ibo have a strong, rich, beautiful culture. When the colonists arrived in the Ibo-occupied regions of Nigeria in the late 1800s, they viewed the Ibo community in a completely different way to how Achebe describes them. This is because they were unfamiliar with them and their ways of life. The colonists had never seen people like the Ibo before, and because they were so accustomed to their western lifestyles, they tagged them as uncivilized and savage, based their own experiences. Achebe did not want only these views going around about his people/ancestors, because in his eyes they were untrue. So through TFA, he teaches us foreigners about the beauty of his people’s lives, and attempts to eradicate the biased views we initially had about them. This was due to us initially listening only to the views of the white European men.

By including so many different details about Ibo culture and society in the text, Things Fall Apart has several effects on the reader. The main effect is that the reader is now able to observe what the Ibo were like through the eyes of one of their own (Achebe), as well as from the views of foreigners (the colonists). They are able to see the beauty of the Ibo culture and society, not just the initial biased views about it from the colonists. Because of this, it gives the reader a more worldly view of them, as they are able to consider the views from both sides. As the plot goes on, this effect on the reader will be emphasized further, as well as many other effects emerging which were not initially noticed.

Descriptions of Ibo society in TFA chapters 1-3

29 Apr

In the first three chapters of the novel “Things Fall Apart”, the reader can identify several unique themes/aspects relating to the text. The most significant of these aspects is “the beauty and complexity of Nigerian/Ibo society”.   The Ibo community, which the main protagonist Okonkwo is a part of, is very different from the regular western community I am familiar to. Several of the differences between the two communities include the aspects of traditions, social structure, lifestyle, etc.

I’ll start off with traditions. One example of the difference in traditions is “the breaking of the kola nut”. This will happen during a range of events, from somebody stopping by for a casual conversation, to a great deal being made between two parties. The kola nut is something like gift, a gesture for the occasion. For example, if somebody is coming by another person’s house to make a deal with them, then either the host or the guest will provide the kola nut. It is then broken and eaten between the two people. The “breaking of the kola nut” is almost like a handshake, or a gift, in western society, but if member of the Ibo community saw westerners doing those things, they would definitely have the same reaction as us to seeing them break the kola: “what a strange activity”. Another tradition we are introduced to is the usage of proverbs in conversation. In Ibo society, “the art of conversation is regarded highly” (pg 6), and proverbs are used greatly in conversations to emphasize point being made. This is very different from western society, where we just simply converse with one another in everyday language, unless, for example, we are two scientists and need to discuss with one another a topic that requires complex vocabulary that we both know. A final tradition that strikes me is the taking of titles. Men in Ibo society are encouraged to take titles in their clan, as it makes them highly regarded and brings them honour. Men who do not take titles, like Okonkwo’s   father Unoka, are not respected as much as men with titles, and are sometimes considered inferior.

Onto the social structure of Ibo society, men are considered superior over women. The husband in a household always has control over the wife, or wives, and they must always follow the rules of the husband. This is shown greatly in Okonkwo’s household, where his three wives must always respect him and never show any signs of wanting increased power over him. Also, linking back to traditions, a man who has no titles is called an “agbala”, meaning either a man with no titles or a woman. This emphasizes the superiority men have over women, as it likens a man with no titles, and hence not as much respect, to a woman. Also, because Ibo men are polygamist, meaning they have the custom of acquiring more than one wife, their first wife has superiority over the others. This is shown at a “deal-making” event in the novel. As the palm-wine is opened, the wives of the host are invited to drink the wine first. But the first wife is obliged to drink before the others. This event also shows us that even though the wives are inferior to the husbands, the husbands do have respect for them.  Ibo social structure is very different from what I am used to, as I am Canadian. In western society, women and men have equal rights and both must respect one another. Also, polygamy is not accepted in western society at all, so that is a big difference as well.

Lastly the lifestyles of the Ibo people are very different from that of westerners. Most of the community spends their life as yam farmers, as they must grow food for themselves. Each family must clear a field in order to sow their seed-yams at the beginning of the rainy season, and then harvest the yams during the harvest season. Also, the most significant hobby that was noticed in the novel so far is the playing of an instrument in a band.  Common instruments described include drums (called the ekwe and udu) and flutes, as well as singing.

Things Fall Apart Ch. I, II, III

23 Apr

“Things Fall Apart”, a novel written by Chinua Achebe, who is a Nigerian writer, which narrates the story of Okonkwo, a member Nigerian tribe Ibo in the late 1800. From the first pages, the novel starts to demonstrate the culture and traditions of the tribunes, which is very fascinating.

The first three chapters of the novel starts with introduction of the characters. It introduces Okonkwo, the main character, and his father. In the introduction we find out a lot of information about the traditions of the Ibo people. We learn that the male members of the tribe get a title due to their positive accomplishment. We find out that Okonkwo’s father hasn’t had any title, and was called “agbala” which in their language meant “a woman” and also meant “a man who had taken no title”. It was very interesting for me why does this tradition relate a title-less man to a woman. They treatment of the opposite sex in the traditions of the tribe was very interesting, and we can learn it from the first 3 chapters of the book as well.

A woman in the Ibo is considered to be more dependent. She cannot decide for herself, and her destiny is decided by the male she is controlled by, initially her father and later on her husband. Men of the tribe are free to have as many wives as they can afford, also depending on their title, and there is nothing a wife can do about it. For example, as we can see in the book, as one of the members of another tribe kills the wife of Ogbuefi Undo, the daughter of the killer is given to him as a replacement. But there is one interesting point that we learn from the third chapter of the book. Wives are being respected, and if a man has more than one wife, his first wife is respected by all the others. We can see that during the feast at Nwakibie’s house, as the wine is opened, his wives are the ones who are invited to the feast and they have to drink wine first. There is a rule though. The first wife of Nwakibie had to drink the wine first, followed by the other wives. Then they left the feast and the male were left alone.

From the first three chapters, we learn about the main characters of the story, about how they reached their achievements and about their character. Within the storyline, the author gently gives information about the traditions of the tribe and their culture, which doesn’t make the book feel like an encyclopedia.

Relating TFA to the IB Language and Literature guide

22 Apr

Chosen statement from IB Language and Literature guide: Literary texts are not created in a vacuum but are influenced by social context, cultural heritage and historical change.

The novel “Things Fall Apart”, written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, was “not created in a vacuum”.  In the text, there are several things that have definitely influenced the setting, the characters and their behaviours, the plot, etc. Such aspects include, as stated in the chosen statement, social context, cultural heritage, and historical change.  For example, the demographic structure of the Ibo community in Okonkwo’s village was not just thought of out of thin air by Achebe himself. Instead, it was  based on that of the actual Ibo communities which existed (and still do) in Nigeria. The lifestyles and interests of each of the characters in TFA were also based on the cultural heritage of the Ibo people. The farming of yams, the breaking of kola, the taking of titles in the community, all of these activities are based on those of the actual native Nigerians. (not finished)

Things Fall Apart (chs 1-3)

15 Apr

In the first three chapters of the novel “Things Fall Apart” Achebe gives an insightful view on the protagonist – Okonkwo. He begins by describing his masculine appearance that is both intimidating and astonishing. Achebe describes in detail the fight that made Okonkwo famous in his village and the villages nearby, which immediately shows to the reader that Okonkwo was a leader by nature. Moreover, the description of the fight that Okonkwo won shows the cultural aspect of Umuofia, the village Okonkwo was from, which will be evident later on in the novel. From the first chapter Okonkwo is portrayed as a violent, strong and agressive character. Achebe describes his ill temper, by revealing details on how he often relied on physical power when he was not content with something. Okonkwo, as Achebe says “ruled his household with a heavy hand”. He held every member of his family in fear, as they knew that each of them would be beaten if they disobeyed Okonknwo even slightly. Through that experience in Okonkwo’s house, the author is showing how women and children were treated in that society and emphasizes the ultimate patriarchy that existed in the Umuofian society. Throughout the three first chapters Achebe, on several occasions, describes how hard working Okonkwo was. He is portrayed as a great farmer, who always has the best harvest and never stops working, even under complicated circumstances. Achebe also shows the hardships that Okonkwo underwent, struggling for the desired success. From a very difficult beginning, when his father left him no inheritance for a successful life, to the very poor harvests due to weather – Okonkwo survived all the obstacles on his way, which shows his determinant and strong character and his strong will to succeed.

The reader spots that Okonkwo was obsessed with the idea of succeeding and achieving the highest honors of the clan. He was firm in his will to achieve the so called “highest titles” of the clan and to become one of the most respected man in his society. He also had an obsession with the toughness in his character and believed that display of any sort of emotion, but anger and agression was not worthy of a true man. Again, this primarily shows the cultural aspect behind the society he lived in, but moreover, it shows the key fears of Okonkwo. The reader quickly understands where Okonkwo gained that kind of beliefs and obsession when Achebe starts describing his father. Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, was a man  of art and not showed no particular interest in farming like the other men of the clan. He was as the clan believed, the most unsuccessful man in Umuofia and gained no titles whatsoever. Unoka’s love of conversation and disgust of physical abuse tired and angered Okonkwo, and since he was a young child he wanted to be a complete opposite of his father. That is how the reader understands where the origin of Okonkwo’s violence and obsession with success originates.

Finally, in the first three chapters of the novel, Ikemefuna’s arrival is described. The boy was frightened and surprised to be taken away from his mother and to have to live in a completely new and different household. The arrival of Ikemefuna is very significant as it will have a tremendous effect later on in the novel. The mention of the priestess in the three chapters and such details as “obi” (hut) and kola-nut give an insightful view on Umuofia culture and enhances the reader’s understanding on the structure of the Umuofian society.