World Literature 2
18 December 2014
Clash of the Cultures
Things Fall Apart
, by Chinua Achebe dispels the commonly held view
Europeans had of Africans before colonization as savage and godless heathens.
Achebe explains the very advanced social order in Umuofia and the complex Ibo religion.
Things Fall Apart is a rare outlook on the colonization of Africa from the perspective of the Nigerian natives. This essay will compare and contrast the views of the European’s and Ibo’s politics, beliefs and economies.
Europe was ruled by a set of very powerful and competing monarchs during the time of imperialism. In these monarchies a king and queen had supreme power over their countries. In Umuofia there was a democratic system of government with no one ruler and a complex system by which people could gain political power through economic success. Europeans saw this Ibo way of life as barbaric and chaotic. There was no law enforcement or leaders. According to the Mbame villagers,”We have men of high title and the chief priests and the elders” (148). The Ibo ran their tribes as a group.
Every honorable man had a say in the decisions made by and for the tribe. On the other hand the Ibo’s knew very little about European culture. If the Ibo knew anything about
European culture they knew it was even more chaotic than their own culture. They may have thought that the European political system was a revered leader with many
servants to do his or her evil bidding. Another part the Ibo may have found strange is that the Europeans could of had female leaders. The Ibo gave women no power in their tribe as they were simply just women. It is extremely ironic that the European missionaries lectured the Ibo about how in their religion everyone is equal in the eyes of
God, yet within their own political system they had supreme rulers that had the power to control god itself.
Contrary to the popular belief of the European’s the Ibo had a complex religion before Christianity came. Everyone in the Ibo tribes had religious ties, they were willing to sacrifice almost everything to obey their gods. They would even obey their religious leaders to the point that when told to kill their own children they would. There are multiple examples of the Ibo killing their own kin in
Things Fall Apart
. “He heard the blow. The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, “my father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down” (61). Another example of the parents killing their own children is when they have twins. It was Ibo superstition that twins were bad and they had to disfigure and murder the new born babies. This would appear barbaric to the Europeans because their society and religion forbid humans killing another human. In the Ibo religion there were a collection of gods for different occurrences in nature and life. Overall the Ibo religion was adapted to a suit the agrarian based tribal society. The Ibo religion contained many superstitions and strange rituals, which turned out to make its followers more vulnerable to Christian influence. The Europeans built their church in the evil forest which was supposed to be cursed land, but when nothing happened to the
missionaries the lesser class Ibo began to question their own religion. Without these superstitions many of the Ibo would have feared leaving their religion more.
On the other hand European religion encouraged everyone to join them. They were willing to take in all classes of life. In the eyes of the European god everyone was supposedly equal and any who wished to join were greeted with warm hands. In the eyes of the Ibo this received a