’s Okonkwo Essay, Research Paper
The assimilation of the African continent by European colonizers and missionaries was a destructive and often bloody chapter of our history. It imposed a way of life that was foreign and often contrary to the ways of Africa s people, as Chinua Achebe shows us in his book Things Fall Apart. The main character in this work, Okonkwo, is almost completely unable to react to the change that the Anglican s brought to his land without violence and anger, and he suffers for it as a result, exemplifying some of the main themes in the story.
Throughout Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is subjected to difficult changes, but it is his inability to react to them wisely that truly destroys him. When the Anglican missionaries arrive, Okonkwo and his tribesmen consider their language to be mere noise . Not only is this an ironic opinion because the Anglicans historically considered native African s languages to be mere noise, themselves, but it is also a prime example of Okonkwo s unwillingness to learn more about a situation then what he initially sees. Because he chose to ignore the missionaries, he weakened his ability to fairly assess their importance. When Okonkwo s son, Nwoye, joins the Anglican Church, he disowns him. He did so because He sees any diversion from the way of life that he is accustomed to as weak and to be looked down upon. This brings about a feelings of unhappiness and loss in both him and his son, and if he had been more excepting of other ways, that would not have been so. Okonkwo is a man who is so set in his ways, and so unable to adapt, that when he is subjected to change, he falls to pieces.
When the missionaries begin to influence his society, Okonkwo suffers great consequences. When one of the converts, Enoch, kills one of Umofia s ancestral sprits, he and his tribesmen burn down the Anglican Church, resulting in their own imprisonment and a fine to be place on the town in return for their lives. Although this would not have happened if they had realized that no good would come out of such destruction, it was the controversial change that their culture was experiencing that was the root cause for their reaction. They believed that they were merely enforcing justice, while the missionaries saw quite the opposite. Following the death of the church messenger, Okonkwo kills himself. His death was also a direct result of a new and strange religion being forced into his life. He felt so distraught when everything that he considered to be of any value in his life strength, power, and superiority seized to be, that he could not bear to live on. In his mind, the world was coming to an end at the hands of a beast who had quietly crept into his village, and lured even his own son into its grasp; this is strikingly similar to the general feeling of the poem The Second Coming from which Achebe adopted the title Things Fall Apart . While Okonkwo appears to be above pain and suffering, he, like any human being, is not.
The changes and consequences that Okonkwo and his people experience highlight the themes that violence and anger bring with them no happiness and that the colonization of Africa hurt many of its people. Throughout Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo faces the changes brought to his life by the Anglican missionaries by lashing out at them, resulting in the destruction of their church and the death of a messenger. During all these events, he is never once happy with himself or his life, and he has not improved his situation, even by his own standards. None of his people, including the converts as happy or content with their lives as they were prior to the missionaries arrival. This goes to show that although the exposure to European culture was a not an entirely negative event, the fact that they forced themselves upon Umofia caused such anguish that the people of Nigeria are still facing the same problems today. The European colonization of Africa separated it into two cultures where it had before been one in such a way that they were seldom able to live in peace, and that has been reoccurring them in the works of Achebe.
The colonization of Africa was one of many controversial European endeavors, and while it brought with it the knowledge of the modern world, it too destroyed a way of life. Okonkwo was just one of those lives, but his story represents the story of a people.