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Things Fall Apart

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In Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart the life of a man named Okonkwo and the tribe of Umuofia is depicted in three chapters which each represent a significant era in the tribe. In the first chapter, Achebe describes the life of the native African tribe before the coming of the white man. This chapter enables the reader to understand and respect the life of the Igbo. The second chapter describes the beginnings of colonialism and introduction of the white man. Suddenly, the Igbo way is questioned. The natives lives are turned upside down as they search for a way to understand the new religion and laws of the Europeans. The third chapter describes the effect of colonialism on the Igbo tribe. This section explores the many ways which the Igbo people try to adapt to the new society. From the suicide of Okonkwo to the abandonment by other tribe members, it becomes apparent how difficult it was for the African's to adjust to the change. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness tells of an English man named Marlow and his journey into the Congo and interest in a colonist named Kurtz. Marlow is the narrator of the novel. He describes the natives and the Europeans from a somewhat objective view. He finds colonialism questionable, but also cannot relate to the Africans. Kurtz is the antagonist who exploits the Africans to make money by selling ivory and subsequently goes insane. Both novels depict the colonization of Africa, but each has a markedly different perspective on the African's lives which were irreparably altered when Europeans came to conquer their land and convert them to Christianity.

Conrad's descriptions of the Africans are inherently racist. The text is full of demeaning descriptions and negative thoughts about the blacks. "The thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly" (Conrad 32) Conrad refers to the natives as niggers and compares their looks to animals. "He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind legs." (Conrad 33) These passages and attitudes toward the natives promote the view of the natives during colonialism of Africa in the way that Achebe's district commissioner sees it, "He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger." (Achebe 209) This attitude is condescending and insulting. Both novels show the disregard that the Europeans had for the people whose lives they were changing. It is apparent that the Europeans did not see the blacks as people at all, but some sort of middle ground between white humans and monkeys. The declaration that the African tribes were not passive and were primitive is much of the story in Heart of Darkness and the idea that Achebe is trying to dissuade in Things Fall Apart.

Another major difference, which also implies racism on the part of Conrad, is the difference in the ability of the African's to communicate in a well thought out and complex language. In Things Fall Apart the men and women of the Igbo tribes communicate in a way that is different than the Europeans, but is by no means inferior. The tribal language is decorated with proverbs. "As the Igbo say, 'When the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for a walk." (Achebe 10) It is obvious by the complex social structure and elaborate ceremonies that communication between the Igbo is not lacking. In Heart of Darkness, the African's not only speak like imbeciles, but are cannibals as well. "'Catch 'im,' he snapped, with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth - 'catch 'im. Give 'im to us." 'To you, eh?" I asked; 'what would you do with them?' 'Eat 'im!' he said, curtly, and leaning his elbow on the rail, looked out into the fog in a dignified and profoundly passive attitude." (Conrad 36) Marlow speaks well, but his black shipmate can barely complete a four word sentence.

It is easy, however,



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