Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is one of the literary works that prompted many scholars to re-evaluate their assumptions about African people. This paper is aimed at discussing the significance of this book. In particular, it is important to apply the paradigm of cultural thought developed by Linda Myers because this framework can better demonstrate why this novel attracts so much attention. Apart from that, one should consider the so-called cardinal principles of Ma’at that throw light on the worldviews and moral values of African people.
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Modern scholars argue that African culture has often been misunderstood or misinterpreted. For instance, Lynda Myers notes that the values of African people have been analyzed from the Western perspective (Myers 32). So, this author advocates the adoption of Afro-centric thought paradigm (Myers 32). In turn, the novel by Chinua Achebe can illustrate this point. For instance, it is possible to consider the following passage, “Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten” (Achebe 5). This quote demonstrates the way in which conversational traditions of Igbo people have certain patterns. More importantly, they can be misunderstood by outsiders, especially colonizers. This is one of the details that can be identified.
The author notes that people, who came to Africa from Europe, can criticize the behavior of lifestyles of the native people. The main problem is that they can often misjudge their behavior. He expresses this critique through one of the characters who says, “Does the white man understand our custom about land?” “How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad” (Achebe 50). This phrase highlights the conflicts between the representatives of different cultures.
Additionally, it is possible to apply the cardinal principles incorporated in Ma’at which is one of the worldviews incorporated into African culture. It incorporates such values as justice, truth, balance, reciprocity, and so forth. However, the implementation of these principles may not coincide with the Western norms. Chinua Achebe illustrates this issue by exploring the life of the village in which Okonkwo lives. Overall, literary critics believe that this novel is supposed to challenge the readers’ notions about African countries (Bloom 35). To a great extent, this view can be supported.
It should be mentioned that this book can be analyzed by applying the methods of Western literary critique. For instance, one can use such a concept as the tragic hero. This notion is used to describe a person who is destined to suffering and downfall. As a rule, he/she has to struggle against overwhelming forces. In many cases, this person can evoke fear or sympathy. For instance, it is possible to mention Okonkwo. The readers can feel some compassion for the main character because they see that the protagonist cannot adjust to the changing conditions within the community in which he grew up. Moreover, one can see that Okonkwo has certain moral values, but at the same time, he can act cruelly. Furthermore, he is too afraid of looking weak. However, later, when the protagonist loses his status and power, the protagonist chooses to believe that his life is controlled by destiny or “chi” as the main character calls it (Achebe 19).
On the whole, the writer’s main message is that the worldviews and behavior of African people have often been assessed according to Western standards. However, this approach can lead to disastrous effects such as the marginalization of people. These are the main aspects that can be distinguished.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart, London: Penguin UK, 2013. Print.
Bloom, Harold. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, New York: Infobase Publishing.
Myers, Linda. “Transpersonal Psychology: The Role of the Afrocentric Paradigm.” Journal of Black Psychology 12.31 (1985): 31-42. Print.