Things Fall Apart firmly and fairly addresses various topics. This essay will discuss some of the most prominent themes portrayed by Chinua Achebe, namely, the depiction of racism, women characters, and colonialism.
In the novel, racism is introduced in the local Igbo stories about white men. The stories mock the British, whom the locals call albinos and lepers. In this case, the locals believe they are superior to the white men. Another instance of racism is Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown was an English preacher with a contemptuous attitude towards the Igbo people. He openly dismissed the local’s belief in many gods and considered their practice foolish. Mr. Brown uses religion to establish claims of superiority, spreading his notions through education. Even though racism is not apparent in his words, by criticizing and belittling the Igbo’s beliefs, Mr. Brown demonstrates that he considers the white man’s practices superior.
Reverend Smith replaced Mr. Brown, who had complained of health complications. Smith openly condemned his predecessor’s policy of accommodation and compromise. To him, things were either black or white; and black was evil. The preacher considered black to be evil, indicateing that the vice of racism was deeply rooted. The colonial masters were racist, but they went a step further to use racist religious metaphors. For example, Smith considered the world to be a battleground in which the children of the darkness were locked in battle with the sons of the light (Achebe 184). The children of the dark represent the black people, while the sons of the light represent the whites. This idea is an accurate depiction of racism.
Racism is seen in the act of the District Commissioner. The death of Okonkwo presents him with an exciting story to write about. The story cannot amount to a chapter to District Commissioner but rather a reasonable paragraph (Achebe 208). This belittling is another instance of implied racism. The District Commissioner also considers including the term primitive in the title of his book that describes his experience in Africa (Achebe, 209). The word shows that he believes the Igbo to be uncivilized, which represents racism.
Another prominent theme depicted in the novel is women characters. African stories often mention women in their plot. Even though the females may not be the main characters, their roles and position are clearly outlined. Things Fall Apart is not an exception since the novel addresses the topic adequately; it demeans and praises women at the same time.
Females are considered to be the vulnerable gender, and their roles are subordinate and subdued. In the novel, women are presented as defenseless, powerless, and considered second-class citizens by the men. They are not respected and are viewed as laborers, property, and producers of children. The females lack identity and are defined by the status and position of the husbands.
Okonkwo has three wives, and he treats them like slaves. All of the wives live in perpetual fear of his fiery temper. They are supposed to follow his orders without question. This image is the indication of how the Umuofia society requires their women to be submissive. On the other hand, females play the fundamental roles of social care, religion, and education. Through stories, women taught kids about ethical values and morals. The upbringing of infants was women’s duty. Women were influential figures in the religion of Igbo. For instance, Chika is a priestess who is widely respected (Achebe 17). Chielo is another priestess of Agbala (Achebe 35). Therefore, in the novel, women play a significant role in religion.
Achebe painted a very negative picture of colonialism. The British came and brought death to the Igbo culture. The colonial masters used technological advances and religion to convince the Africans that their ways of life were archaic and inferior to those of the white man. The colonialists caused rifts in a society that was accustomed to a harmonious life.
Colonialism caused undermining and destruction of the traditional setting of the Igbo. The white men came in and subverted all the bonds that existed before. According to Okonkwo, the new culture has wrecked the village and changed people. The problem between him and his son was also a result of colonialism. In the end, the author implies that colonialism is the primary culprit in the destruction of Igbo cultures.
Though many characters oppose colonialism, it had some positive effects on the Igbo. The inhuman acts, such as ritual sacrifices, cruel punishments, and backward traditions, were eliminated. The missionaries came with better medical care and an education system that would prove decisive in the rapidly changing world.
Overall, the themes in the novel are vividly introduced and unwound. Despite being fictional writing, the novel is an accurate reflection of society.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Penguin Modern Classics, 2001.