Thingss falll apart Essay

Submitted By Cindykpascal
Words: 1433
Pages: 6

Chinua Acebe's novel Things Fall Apart and Wole Soyinka's drama Death and the King's Horsemen both deal with the issue of suicide within African culture. Each work defies a simplistic view of suicide by placing it within the context of how it is viewed by differing African cultures and the way in which colonialism both complicates how social, moral, ethical, and political beliefs and rituals are practiced by those cultures. each story has a different attitude toward suicide, both deal with it within the context of the communal beliefs in African cultures.
Achebe's novel conforms to this reading, but Soyinka's play takes an opposing view in its given context. Both works place suicide within the context of those communal beliefs. Okonkwo, the lead character in Achebe's novel, commits suicide after he lost political autonomy to colonialism. This is because his clansman do not follow him into battle against the colonialists. Okonkwo's identity as a great warrior is tested throughout the novel, particularly by his own clansman. Yes, the conflicts that arise between Okonkwo and Umofia, his village, occur when Okonkwo's own need for self-identification contradicts the interests of the community. His fear of being seen weak by his clansman, a fear born out of his father's failures as a man, becomes the basis for most of Okonkwo's actions-his abusive behavior toward his family, his denials of affection toward his sons (adopted and biological), and the cutting down of his adopted son Ikemefuna, whose execution is ordered by the Oracle, after the boy runs to his father for help.
When Okonkwo accidentally kills a young boy during a ceremony, he is exiled to his motherland, and further alienating him from his people. These acts and circumstances reveal Okonkwo's individualist nature. after Okonkwo returns to Umofia and realizes that his village has come under sway of the new religion, government, and economic trade that has been established by the colonialists. Okonkwo fantasizes about going to war against the white men. He reacts with "childlike excitement" as he brings down his war dress, and reflects on the way he was treated in the white man's court. If Umuofia decided on war, all would be well. But if they chose to be cowards he would go out and avenge himself" (199). Okonkwo's response to colonialist injustices and insults is placed squarely within an individualist context. Though Okonkwo is troubled over how Umuofia has changed under colonialism, his greatest concern is his own identity within the context of his community. War against the whites satisfies his vanity about being a great, fearless warrior. Therefore, when his own clansman refuses to join him in that battle, Okonkwo's identity is destroyed. Despite his earlier assertion of battling the whites on his own, Okonkwo commits suicide instead. This becomes one of many individualist acts which alienate him from his people.
Okonkwo's suicide is considered an aberration in his community, one that merits a cleansing ritual. Since suicide is considered a sin, the men themselves will not take down his body from the tree on which he hung himself, delegating this responsibility to the colonialists. As one of the clansman explains: "'[Suicide] is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansman. His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it'"(207). The clansmen's response to Okonkwo's suicide arrives out of a moral and ethical response which places itself within the same context as Okonkwo's exile and the executions of Ikemefuna's and the Twins. While each act might bring into question the efficacy of these cultural practices, they do reveal the significance the Ibos place on communal survivalism over individual self-definition. Any threat to the community demands a ritual to appease the gods or the sacrifice of individuals. Okonkwo's suicide is not viewed as a sacrifice to the community in the same way Ikemefuna's death was a