Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel | Effects of Colonialism

Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel

Literature that deals with the people who lived once under colonialism, is called postcolonial literature. Countries of almost every continent went through colonialism. Africa was the most affected continent as colonialism and imperialism caused major changes in the lives of Africans. Things Fall Apart is a novel that deals with postcolonial literature, in which Chinua Achebe portrays theme of colonialism and its demerits. He proved that colonialism either sieged cultural development of Igbo society or entirely replaced it with the new culture. He was not the only one who managed to write novels on colonialism. Heart of Darkness is also an example in which the writer described the miserable condition of Africans when they suffered under British rule. 

History is not enough to believe and categories Things Fall Apart as a postcolonial novel and to understand the theme of colonialism in it. Being students of literature, we must gather some evidence from the book to prove that it is about the people of that continent, which was colonized the most. In order to do this, we have to divide the novel into three parts. In fact, Chinua Achebe already completed this task for us. Hence, he divided the novel into three parts; in first part, he portrays life of Nigerians before colonialism; in second part, he depicts the disturbed life of people when whitemen entered in their society; thirdly, at the end he elucidates the miserable condition of the people along with protagonist of the play after colonialism. 

Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel

It has become obvious from the summary of the novel that Chinua Achebe hit the cultural lives of Nigerian people in his play Things Fall Apart to show the postcolonial condition of the people and to paint colonialism as its major theme. He shows the effect of imperialism through cultural conflicts; therefore, we must stick to the cultural clashes to understand that the play really is a postcolonial novel and we should add it in the list of literature with the effect of colonialism.

Things Fall Apart as a Postcolonial Novel | Effects of Colonialism

Condition of People Before Whitemen

We must know how Igbo people were living before whitemen entered their country. It is necessary to acknowledge the lifestyle of those people to know how colonialism affected them. 

People of Ibo society had different beliefs; they had their own customs. They used to believe in myths. People had their own beliefs about the earth and about the sun. Death played a vital role in their lives. They had stories about stars, moons and about the sun. Their beliefs on ghosts were very strong. They did not question any evidence from their forefathers about the folk tales they told them; instead they believed them blindly. Men were symbols of masculinity and they did the earnings whereas women were considered weak and were bound to household activities. A man could have more than one wife. People had an earth goddess, whom they worshiped. At the end of novel, we realize that all these things vanish from Ibo society due to which we call Things Fall Apart a novel that deals with theme of colonialism, hence, falls in postcolonial literature.

In addition, the yam season was full of festivals. A person’s wealth and wives were dependent upon the production of yam crop. They did not have kings, instead they had their own tribal customs. Every tribe had their own head, who decided the matters between people of his tribe. Okonkwo along with other characters of Things Fall Apart is a good example of it. Thus, these were the main customs and beliefs of Igbo society that were really sacred to them. In the novel Things Fall Apart, the writer shows us through this major theme that before colonialism they were living happily while following these traditions.

Interference of Whitemen in Ibo Society

In Chapter-15 and Chapter-16, the readers realize the interference of whitemen at Abame village. A whiteman enters the society on a bicycle, which the people call iron-horse. When they consult the oracle, it is prophesied that the whiteman followed by others would cause destruction of the village. People of the society kill the whiteman and ties his bicycle to a tree; however, whitemen who follow him subsequently discover it and angrily destroy the village Abame.

Obierika tells the whole incident to Okonkwo. He calls the people of society foolish as they committed murder of an innocent person. Chinue Achebe very skillfully compares the incident with Okonkwo’s thinking. On one hand, protagonist of the play shows sympathy on murder of an alien but on the other hand the writer shows destruction of the city from the hands of whitemen. Meaning thereby that the whitemen instead of conducting an inquiry and finding the responsible person of the incident destroy the whole village. 

Chinua Achebe, in this way, sketches a theme of colonialism and shows cruelty of whitemen in his novel Things Fall Apart during postcolonial period. Colonialism was not for the welfare of the people, instead whiteman came there to create fear in their minds. The incident shows that they went there to make them slaves. 

Acceptance of whitemen

It is also noteworthy that some people open-heartedly accepted colonialism. Nwoye’s example in this regard is in front of us. When missionaries preach Christianity and tell him about the new God, he accepts it. Their new method of worship and believing in only one God really impresses him, resultantly, he changes his mind regarding traditional concepts of Igbo society. In this way, somehow we see the writer expressing his impartial opinions. He shows two types of people in the novel. In the first group are those who reject the idea of a new religion whereas the people who accept the interference of whitemen fall in group two. In this way, the writer sincerely expresses his unbiased opinions.

Postcolonial Condition of Igbo Society in Novel Things Fall Apart

Tragedy starts when the whitemen interfere in the society. It is too late when Okonkwo returns to his home. Numbers of people have already accepted colonialism. He resists but it is in vain. As the customs of Igbo society were entirely interlinked with the religion and whitemen entered there with a new religion; therefore, it was impossible to take the christianity alongside their own beliefs. Moreover, believing on christianiy was meant to accept that their forefathers told them lies. As a Result, Igbo society’s culture faded day by day. It also caused chaos among them. Brother went against brother and father against son. It is evident from the relationship between Okonkwo and his son in the third part of the play. 

Theme of Colonialism in Novel Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe was against colonialism. It is, therefore, he tried his best to present an anti-colonial ideology in his book along with other themes of Things Fall Apart . Some of the critics, however, are of the view that Chinua Achebe was not against colonialism but against the conduct of whitemen towards the African people. They further argue that in his novel, he does not talk about the social issues but about the nostalgic customs under which every African lived once. Indeed, there is no doubt that Things Fall Apart is a postcolonial novel and colonialism is its major theme but it can also never be ignored that Chinua Achebe laments on the customs and lifestyle that were entirely changed due to the interference of whitemen in Igbo society. 

Definition of postcolonial literature is not the literature that was written after colonialism but the literature that deals with it. Every novel in which the writer talks about the effects of colonialism should be called a postcolonial novel. In view of the definition, we can safely say that Chinua Achebe elucidates impacts of colonialism on his society, hence, his novel Things Fall Apart definitely interpret this theme due to which it falls in the category of postcolonial literature.