Albert Chinua Lumogu Achebe, commonly known to many as Chinua Achebe, was born in the 16th of November, 1930 in the Igbo speaking town of Ogidi in southern Nigeria.
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He is renowned worldwide for his poetic and novelist skills, while regarded in Africa as the god father of literary writing, with his novels such as Things Fall Apart (1958), No longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), Anthills of the Savannah (1987), The trouble with Nigeria (1984), receiving admirers globally. Conflict, setting characterization, theme, protagonist, antagonist, foreshadowing and point of view are just some of the literary elements, which he has used as a ground for plotting and setting his literary work (Achebe, 1963).
This research paper therefore attempts to investigate the works of literature done by Chinua Achebe.
Things Fall Apart (1958)
This is one of the vastly read and studied African novels seeing it as the best selling African novel of all time with interpretations being done in several languages, a feat unequalled by any other work of African fiction.
This novel, just like other early novels by Chinua Achebe, was well received because it depicted an untimely African nationalist habit that renounces imperialist and colonialist concepts (Achebe, 1963). Achebe’s narratives were analyzed basing on their speculative proposition on ethnicity and ideological approach serving as a form of confrontation within the nationalist practice that the literature his literature works observed (Barksdale-Hall, 2007).
Things fall apart portrays the wide tensions within traditional Igbo society at the end of the nineteenth century to the cataclysmal changes brought by colonialism and Christianity in the twentieth century with one famous example being the inter-faith exchange between Mr. Brown and Akuna. Chinua Achebe also ”Africanizes” the language of the novel to bring out the cultural milieu of the Igbo people.
In this attempt, Chinua Achebe recreates the social, cultural and the religious fabric of Igbo between 1850 and the early1900 (Barksdale-Hall, 2007). This book not only brings out the reference of tradition, but it also emphasizes on different ideological points of view with the diverse forms of consciousness that arise within the dissertation of self-definition in Igbo customary way of life.
The complex relationships between individuals and groups in the fictional world of the author’s Igbo society, is also widely conveyed (Begam, 1997). These narratives discourses and the dialogism views in this book can seen as the forms of normal social exchanges that portray the very basis of individual and social behavior within conflicting world opinions and such is the thesis relating to tradition as it is the comfort zone of the human conscious (Begam, 1997).
No longer at Ease (1960)
In this book, Chinua Achebe uses the literary technique of blending biblical parlance with a traditional idiom to stress the reality about the inevitable convergence of opposite values and therefore rallying his beliefs on the value of coexistence for people of different religions. He therefore emphasizes that this peaceful coexistence can only be achieved when these people find a common binding factor from their religions and come together in an ecumenical fraternity.
This discussion is based on Umezinwa’s semiotic theory of African symbols, which signifies renewal, flexibility, growth, suppleness, reincarnation, and flexibility. Achebe’s originality is brought out because he focuses significantly on episodes and incidents, which subsumes the concepts of tolerance, accommodation, mediation, and a cosmopolitan mentality on life (Begam, 1997).
This objective brings him out as an author who promotes and encourages inter-faith dialogue with mutual respect for a multi-religious setting. This book also brings out the wide impact of knowledge, education, and evangelism on the people lives and at psychological level, the damage is inflicted on Achebe’s changing society as this brought the culture of self-denigration and the denial of the African’s sense of self-worthiness.
According to Achebe, ”people accepted everything alien as good and everything local or native as inferior (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2001). This matter is brought out in Obi who had received a western system of education and went ahead to alienate himself from the deep customs of his family by becoming involved with Clara. Obi’s western education, like Clara’s education comes forth to set him apart friends and family.
Symbolism is widely used in this book with its plotting set in the 1950s before Nigeria’s independence with the Europeans symbolizing power and change which was being opposed heavily by the African indigenous culture which termed it a ” curse” while they still succeeded in the new world of capitalism, business and western values. This kind of plot is still being edified in the modern day literature as it is used to encourage the appreciation and tolerance of different (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2001).
Cultural values despite the conflicting views and opinions, therefore gradually changing the psychological mind set of the modern day world (Igwebo, 2010).
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Arrow of God (1964)
”Proverbs are the horses of speech if communication is lost, ” these words do not fall short of this book as the title itself proclaims. It is drawn from an Igbo proverb to represent the will of God.
In other words, Arrow of God does not center on the experience of the first Igbo converts to Christianity and modernity but it propelled by the need to help Africans understand and accept that westernization was of great significance than a mere cultural humiliation, conquest and abandonment of indigenous cultures though indeed its a component of all these (Kofi, 1990).
In no other novel does Achebe show a strong sense of social dynamism as the society is shown to be a web of constantly adjusting to inner tensions and rivalries and largely competitive by nature which has to be controlled in a larger union (Kofi, 1990). Words like ”challenge” and ”fight” have been used to energize and bring realism to challenges.
The use of proverbs in this novel can be widely appreciated as it has brought out calmness in the characters by letting the deeper thought be said with a conventional meaning a true depiction of our daily lives whereby we let words and events speak on our behalf. Transposing proverbs from the oral to the written mediums is therefore disabling and foreshadows the death of species, for proverbs are generally collected in written form when about to die, this phenomenon has historical antecedents (Kofi, 1990).
Anthills of the Savannah (1987)
This novel is considered most important to have come out of Africa in the eighties. It comprises the sum total of Achebe’s political and literary thinking as well as his attempts to come to terms with his country’s politics and society by trying to give solutions.
The story line in this book dwells on thematic strands such as love, hate, passion, and friendship that are a recipe for violence especially with political and natural disasters as part of the background of the novel. He gives an artistic portrayal of contemporary Africa where tension, conflicts, as well as military and civilian confrontations are order of the day (Mezu, 2006).
The book combines important elements of African oral narrative traditions with sophisticated literary devices such as the use of multiple narrators. He brings home the point that the elite can combine forces with the dispossessed masses to ensure the creation of more than just and fair society, although there is a change of government in the end, there are several casualties including the dictator himself (Mezu, 2006).
This is integrated within the critique of post independence political practice and the engagement and political problems is a consistent evaluation of the nature of interpersonal relationships and how they can affect the concept of a nation as an imagined community (Mezu, 2006).
Achebe also rejects calls to replace older nationalist narratives of liberation with newer neocolonial narratives of liberation with newer neocolonial narratives of economic exploitation because the latter do nothing to change the perception of Nigeria’s continued victimization and helplessness and therefore blames it on imperialism and capitalism.
This book, just like in the modern day activism, acted as a championing forum for unity for a common goal. In attempt to lay emphasis on this, the author using the first person narrative to show an element that demonstrates for social change which was very rare in the time of his writing and that is why he uses foreshadowing in citing the military coups follows later in Nigeria with the repercussions of such a coup (Ogede, 2001).
The trouble with Nigeria (1984)
This novel introduces the chronicle of English writing from East and West Africa drawing to the on a wide range of texts from the slave diasporas to the post-war upsurge in African English language literature. The plot is set in a politically unstable Nigeria as he laments the series of governments in postcolonial Nigeria and leaders that have betrayed Nigeria (Igwebo, 2010).
Achebe sets a nostalgic mood to this story in response to the trauma of embittered history and therefore providing authors with the means to address the failure of optimistic narratives of liberation that had guided independence movements throughout the colonial world.
Achebe and Soyinka’s characterization trauma resonate with psychoanalysis in suggesting that rehabilitation requires the recollection of past events. Trauma as understood by psychoanalytic theory and both Achebe and Soyinka inhibits an individual’s or community’s ability to access knowledge and process change and growth, therefore Achebe symbolizes through narrative and assimilation the systems of a traumatized individual.
The narratives are also used to call for a rise to socialism and justice to the system, which is not at all working. Chinua Achebe uses the elements of empathy and antipathy to try to reach out to every Nigerian with the same aspirations to come out for this cause (Ogede, 2001).
Achebe argues that elections should not be left to the man who is fighting to save his neck for public servants are public servants and they should be open to criticism, examination and to exposure. This kind of statement is nowadays common in the civilized world making it a literary step to modern day Africa therefore making Achebe the ambassador for literature and justice. Achebe’s longstanding claims for the pedagogical value of literature can be read in this light.
Nostalgia is also outlined in this novel as it is similarly crucial to the articulation of Achebe’s political vision while identifying the crisis facing the nation to be the result of the ”death” of a dream-Nigeria” in which all citizens could live and work in equality (The Economist, 2008).
Nostalgia sharpens the critique of existing political regimes by enabling Achebe to cast present disappointments in concrete and widely recognizable terms. Imagery also comes into play, as the only missing ingredient to Achebe’s imaginary Nigeria is an environment in which a person could pursue any legitimate goal open to his fellows.
This piece of work can also be taken to be inspirational as it serves as a motivation to come and speak for oneself and country in a confined environment where many are afraid to do so (The Economist, 2008). It portrays the side of active involved not just with personal life but also with the socio-political life that can generate heat but give freedom of speech on behalf of the majority (Yousaf, 2003).
It is evident that Chinua Achebe was one of the renowned African writers who had the objective of addressing social problems in the African society. In his works of literature, Chinua Achebe emphasizes on this social problems using narrations. Therefore, Chinua Achebe can be argued to be a socio-political activist, who carried his activisms using literature works (The Economist, 2008). Another dominant theme in the literature works of Chinua Achebe is the ideology of modernity, which is as result of European colonialism
Achebe, C. (1963). Works of Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart: Part One . Monarch Notes , 12-56.
Barksdale-Hall, R. (2007). Chinua Achebe: A Bio-Bibliographic Review . The Journal of Pan African Studies , 12-56.
Begam, R. (1997). Achebe’s sense of an ending: history and tragedy in ‘Things Fall Apart.’ (Nigerian author Chinua Achebe)(Postcolonialism, History, and the Novel) . Studies in the Novel , 89-100.
Ekwe-Ekwe, H. (2001). African Literature in Defence of History: An Essay on Chinua Achebe. Dakar: African Renaissance.
Igwebo, K. (2010). Chinua Achebe. The Journal of Pan African Studies , 123-125.
Kofi, Y. (1990). Chinua Achebe’s Novels: A Sociolinguistic Perspective. Uruowulu-Obosi, Nigeria: Pacific Publishers.
Mezu, R. U. (2006). Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works. London: Adonis & Abbey Publishers Ltd.
Ogede, O. (2001). Achebe and the Politics of Representation: Form Against Itself, From Colonial Conquest and Occupation to Post-Independence Disillusionment. New Jersey: Africa World Press.
The Economist. (2008). Hail to the chief; “Things Fall Apart”.(Chinua Achebe’s novel) . The Economist , 23-25.
Yousaf, N. (2003). Chinua Achebe. Tavistock: Northcote House.