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European Imperialism in Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe tells the story of an African village suffering under European imperialism. The author focuses on the protagonist, Okonkwo, showing how European oppression and exploitation damaged every aspect of the lives of the villagers. Europeans impose their culture and religion on an African culture with a long history. The Europeans know and care little of this history. As the protagonist, Okonkwo is caught in the middle of the political and social tensions between the imperialists and the villagers, and in the middle of the generational struggle of those who want to be more like the Europeans and those who want to stick their heads in the sand and/or try to maintain the traditional ways. He fears that "all his male children" will "follow Nwoye's footsteps and abandon their ancestors?" (152-153). He is also at odds with his father, who to some degree represents not only those old ways but their corruption as well.

The first part of the book shows an African culture which is relatively strong and orderly, although Achebe does show its faults and weaknesses. Still, those shortcomings or oddities are integral parts of the culture, parts which give it its special character as well as hold it together. This can even be said for the sacrifice of the twins.

In the second part the foreigners have imposed their culture and values: "Apart from the church, the white man had also brought a government. They had built a court where the District Commissioner judged cases in ignorance" (174). Okonkwo returns from exile to a changed village. Violence is inevitable because the conflicts are too great to be overcome in any reasonable way. As Obierika says: "Our own men . . . have joined the ranks of the stranger [and] his religion and they help to uphold his government" (176). Okonkwo is at the center of the violence, first against another (204) and then against himself.

As Ibo society is destroyed by imperialism, ...

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European Imperialism in Things Fall Apart. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:36, December 02, 2020, from