The Igbo culture is flexible and continuous; its laws are made by men and are not solid and permanent. Change is implicit in oral culture. Igbos have been able to retain their core beliefs and behavior systems for 5000 years because of the flexibility and adaptability of their culture. Yeats says things collapse from within before they are overwhelmed by things from without- Umuofia’s collapse is its loss of faith, and that is also its strength, it’s refusal to fight. But this self-destruction, this bending of societal codes is what keeps the culture from being annihilated. One fundamental question that occurs while trying to figure out how Yeats fits into an understanding of this book is whether or not things really do fall apart. From Okonkwo’s point of view they certainly do, but Okonkwo’s is not the only point of view in the book. Do things fall apart for the rest of the Umuofia tribes, and for the Ibo people, or does their center still hold, and it is just a center that they never shared with Okonkwo? It is important to look at the construction of the novel and the way it ties in with Yeatsian theory on the rise and fall of civilizations, and on personal tragedy.
The Yeatsian vision of Western history is of a world of “alternating civilizations, each giving way to one another through its inability to contain all human impulses within the enclosed scheme of value and being replaced by all that is overlooked and undervalued”(Wright 80). A fundamental principle of Yeats’ vision is that things must “collapse from within before they are overwhelmed from without” (Wright 79). The falcon must lose the connection with the falconer before the center begins to l…
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…escapeÉHe wiped his machete on the ground and went away” (205). An enduring aspect of the center of the Igbo people is the ability of that center to change and adapt. In an unchanging time, OkonkwoÕs inflexible will guaranteed his success as a clansman of the Igbo, a culture remarkable for its flexibility, but when the culture had to change to prosper, Okonkwo lost his center, and became a truly tragic figure.
Kartennar, Neil ten. “How the Center is Made to Hold in Things Fall Apart.” English Studies in Canada. Downsview, Ont. University of Toronto Press. 1975
Simola, Raisa. “World Views in Chinua AchebeÕs Works.” Frankfurt am Main: New York. 1995.
Wright, Derek. “Things Standing Together: A Retrospective on Things Fall Apart.” Heinemann. Oxford; 1990.
Chinua Achebe: A Celebration. Ed. Holst, Peterson. Rutherford.
Essay on Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness
The Tragic Fall in Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness
In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Conrad Heart of Darkness, the role of Africa is intertwined. It is seen as extremely primitive and the African’s belief system is belittled. The two heroes in the novels also are very similar, and most especially in one aspect. They both experience a downfall. This is a vital theme throughout both books. Aristotle would say it is the fall of two “tragic heroes”. However, even though these two characters share these similar incidences, the readers are given several different perceptions of one event. The colonization of the Europeans paid a heavy toll on the Africans and their way of life. The Europeans are consistently portrayed at the outsiders. Okonkwo is also quite familiar with Africa, yet Marlow was not. In his eyes, the Africans are seen as the outsiders. Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, was seen as a person who was very lazy and who made no contribution to their society. This made Okonkwo hate him and any trait of any kind that correlated with that of his father. One way that this is displayed is that “Okonkwo never showed emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show emotion was a sign of weakness, the only thing worth demonstrating was strength” (Achebe 28). Okonkwo’s greatest weakness was fear, yet this a contradiction in it’s own terms. His fear of fear played such a big part of his adult life that it came back to haunt him. He never wanted to be considered a victim. Yet, ironically, he was only setting himself up to self-destruction and tragedy. Because of fear, it drives him pull his machete and strike a blow, first killing Ikemefuna and later the Court Messenger. Finally, this drives him to be physically abus…
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…d, but instead because he could have been so great. Instead, he becomes cruel, unfeeling, and greedy. The true tragedy is that Kurtz did not become the great man that he could have been. Okonkwo and Kurtz were two men from the opposite ends of the spectrum. Their beliefs did not coincide, but they did have one aspect in common. They both brought themselves to the point of a tragic fall. For some reason or another, they both had to leave their homes. This is the marking of their fall. As soon as they do leave, the downfall begins, and it does not stop until there is nothing else to lose.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1959.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: W.W. Norton