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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Essay by   •  April 18, 2019  •  Book/Movie Report  •  684 Words (3 Pages)  •  725 Views

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In response to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Chinua Achebe responded by writing Things Fall Apart. He argued that Joseph Conrad was blatantly racist and glorified Europe’s colonization of Europe. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe attempted to prove Conrad’s descriptions of the Africans being savages wrong. He was trying to describe how the Africans were civilized after all, and gives the reader the point of view of the Africans when the white men come into Africa. Ultimately, he did the complete opposite and destroyed his argument by revealing that the African natives were much more savage than depicted by Conrad in Heart of Darkness.

        Chinua Achebe accused Joseph Conrad of being racist by the way he described the Africans and calling them savages. Now while Conrad’s ways of describing the Africans is strange, it is no way blatantly racist. The time period this book was written was a time where the white men knew nothing about Africa. So when they arrived and encountered with the natives, they were so fascinated by the differences of the people. Conrad expressed this by describing the Africans in such unusual ways. “…She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress” (Conrad 146). The way Kurtz’s mistress is being described is mysteriously and with curiosity. There is no hatred intended from Conrad in the text.

        While Achebe tried to share the story of his people through his viewpoint, he actually weakened his argument. He made his people sound even worse than what he claimed Conrad described them as. It does not make sense as to why Achebe would make the main character of his story, which basically represents his people, as a man who has no self-control and an outcast to society. This gives the reader the impression that the Africans at that time are even more savage than originally believed. For example, “… he [Okonkwo] was not afraid of war. He was a man of action, a man of war. Unlike his father he could stand the look of blood. In Umuofia’s latest war he was the first to bring home a human head” (Achebe 10).When Conrad wrote, “… such details would be much more intolerable than those heads drying on the stakes under Mr. Kurtz’s windows” (Conrad 161), Achebe argued it was hateful to his people, but then includes the same savage scenario in his work.

        Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart both include a main character whose tragic flaw leads to their demise. In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz arrived to Africa and slaughtered natives to obtain copious amounts of ivory and did not know when to stop. While in Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo, a man who is so afraid of failure and weakness, goes out of his way to prove that he is not anything like his son or father. Achebe noted that, “Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. (Achebe 13). In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo killed his adopted son to prove himself. He also kills the missionary messenger in hopes of rallying his clan to start a war against the white men. Unfortunately, his people thought otherwise and Okonkwo hanged himself.



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