MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)
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Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
Things Fall Apart Part 2

message 2: by Ashly (new)

Ashly | 8 comments In this section Achebe's presents the clash of cultures as the white missionaries begin to invade the Igbo tribe. Social disintegration becomes a relevant factor in this section as the collision of cultures begins. The cultural misunderstanding cuts both ways: Just as the rigid Reverend Smith views Africans as "heathens," the Igbo initially criticize the Christians and the missionaries as "foolish." For Achebe, the Africans' misperceptions of themselves and of Europeans need to shift as much as the misperceptions of Africans by the West. Before introducing the missionaries, Achebe includes many examples of how the Ibo society is rich in culture, with a complex belief system as well as important traditions. The Christian missionaries, however, completely overlook any cultural richness that existed amongst the Igbo tribe. The Igbo people have strong religious beliefs, even though they are obviously different from the European religion.
The missionaries believe they are morally superior to the Igbo people. It is not so much that they want to help improve Igbo civilization, but they actually believe the Igbo are inferior and that their entire culture needs to be erased and then rebuilt in the Christian model. The Christians arrive and bring division to the Igbo. The new faith divides father from son, and the Christians seek to attack the very heart of Igbo belief; such an attack also attacks the core of Igbo culture, as the tribe's religious beliefs are absolutely vital to all other aspects of life. Not to any surprise, the first converts are people who stand to profit from a change in the social order. They are people like Nwoye, who have no title in the tribe, and thus have nothing to lose. In Christianity Nwoye finds comfort and breaks free of his father’s authority. The missionaries are clever sales men who also have ulterior motives.
It completely angered me that through weak minded individuals in the Igbo tribe, the missionaries slowly climbed their way up into the African society. The church they built symbolized their uprising and influence in the tribe, not only had they succeeded in distinguishing a place in the Igbo society but they were not going to stop until everyone had become a Christian. The religion and the new government caused havoc upon the harmony of Igbo life. Social instability and the threat of violence arrived in full force, and resistance seems to be impossible. The old religion was threatened and the Igbo were forced to bow down to white authority.

message 3: by Amalia (new)

Amalia Quesada | 8 comments One of the reoccurring themes I noticed in Achebe’s writing is the clash between change and tradition. Okonkwo, for example, struggles with this theme as he fails to adapt to compliance rather than violence. He resists the new political and religious orders that come up in his village because he feels that they are not as strong or “manly” as the current ones, and that he himself will not be strong if he complies to accept them. This image of strength as a man is a tradition that exists in his society’s culture, so he fears judgmental issues that he will face if he complies with change. More importantly, if he adapts to change, he fears that he will lose his societal status/title, and the power that he worked so hard for. Concerning the Western or European influence, I completely disagreed with their approach in introducing new values into the Igbo community.
The missionaries hold themselves to a high standard, believing that they are superior in every way to the Igbo community. They are manipulative, aware that although the Igbo people are torn between welcoming Christianity and Western culture into their world, they are excited about the opportunities the missionaries have to offer for them. People like Nwoye are especially interested; if they have a chance to break free from social order, if it could possibly be beneficial, they will comply with the missionaries’ words. The missionaries use this against the Igbo people in order to walk all over them, feeling the need to erase not only their religion but their entire culture, replacing it with a Christian culture; the “white man’s burden.”
However, concerning this burden that history books inform us of today, I feel that the intentions of the missionaries were not to “help” the tribe develop, but rather to use them as a means of expanding their culture and virtues. An enormous part of change, I believe, especially during an exchange, involves compromise. This did not exist at all during the exchange between the missionaries and the Igbo people, as was proven when violence began to erupt from the missionaries’ sides, forcing the Igbo tribe to accept this change, no longer having a say in the matter. Ultimately, the white missionaries are the ones that do not benefit from these results; the Igbo tribe had a unique richness and abundance of traditions to offer, and they will never experience or possibly benefit from them. A prime example of how rashness in making a decision can have consequences. Today we struggle to uncover what ancient values and cultures these tribes left behind, as a result of our ancestors' decision to erase them. We suffer today from being deprived of these rich cultures.

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