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 3


message 2: by Ashly (new)

Ashly | 8 comments Achebe allows the reader the realization that things will fall apart and that there will be no happy ending. This is why I was not surprised by Okonkwo’s decision to take his own life. There were many events that led me to believe that Okonkwo would in fact be the tragic hero and his suicide seemed nearly inevitable. The accidental death and then exile darkened Okonkwo's view of life. The betrayal of his son left him helpless, the betrayal of his people and their predictable suppression pushed Okonkwo into despair.
His death symbolized the demise of the enter Umuofia clan he as he knew it but, in a more ironic way. Okonkwo truly believed that by taking his life he would be protecting his man hood however, in reality he was more of a coward. The lack of appreciation and respect for diversity aided in dismantling an entire culture and Okonkwo couldn't bear to watch his life and values be stripped away before his eyes. The irony of Okonkwo’s death is completely mind boggling. His death is symbolic of the damage that disrespect for individual freedoms and beliefs can have upon society. Nevertheless In the eye of the white District Commissioner, Okonkwo was a stupid man who died a fool's death. He deserved only a fleeting mention and needs nothing more than a short, inconsequential paragraph containing a tale of a black man. The district commissioner’s view of Okonkwo’s death is rather typical of most Europeans. When deciding a title for his memoir, he did not use the word “salvation” or even “conversion”, he chose to title it the “Pacification of the Tribes of the Lower Niger”. This goes to show that British policy in colonizing Africa suggested introducing Christianity was a way to make the natives easier to weaken, all the while giving the process an air of authority
As I was looked back on my reading, I remembered an Igbo word that I came across in the glossary, “efulefu”. “Efulefu” is defined as, "a worthless man” and as I thought about this term and its definition, I found it ironic that the story began with it applying to one man and ended with it applying to a very different man. In the beginning of the story, it was Unoka who was thought of as a worthless man by his son Okonkwo, but in the end of the story, it is himself that Okonkwo believes to be a worthless man. Okonkwo was not worthless; he was the only individual that stood behind his beliefs and traditions. It is easy for many of us to judge and say that Okonkwo took the easy way out but, it would have been pointless for Okonkwo to try and live and cope in a world run according to a system he don't believe in. It is fair to say that it is an abomination to commit suicide, but it was a way for Okonkwo to keep himself tied to his religion and his beliefs.


message 3: by Amalia (new)

Amalia Quesada | 8 comments If there is any message that I have taken away from Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, it is that there is a danger to a single story. Once again, I learned about this during my trip to South Africa this summer. One of the topics the course explored was why there is this universal image of Africa as a continent that “needs saving”? It is true that it is stricken by poverty and hunger, but that does not exist on the entire continent, just as it does not exist on the entire North American, South American, or any other continent. So why does the world continue to view Africa from this one perspective?
I was not surprised with Okonkwo’s suicide because I knew since I had identified that he was a tragic hero in the beginning of the book, that he would eventually self-destruct. He had his own reasons, wanting to preserve his manhood and acting instinctively, as any brave man in his culture would be expected to do. His fear of being called weak and failure follows him to death, as he would rather take his own life than submit to a new culture that missionaries introduce the Igbo tribe to.Unfortunately, the story of his life and the things he achieved as a leader would never be told; he would instead only be known in the Western world for his death.
While I was on my course, I read an article titled “How to Write about Africa”, by Binyavanga Wainaina. The entire article was written in a sarcastic tone, mocking how history books and other forms of documentation portray Africa as “one country” and “hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving.” I thought about this when I read about the commisioner’s plan to write a book about his travels in Africa. The commissioner was by far my least favorite character in the entire book, for his ignorant and pompous demeanor. He is in the middle of writing a book about Africa, and he decides to mention Okonkwo’s death in a paragraph or chapter of it, because he thinks it will be interesting. Achebe therefore uses the commissioner to demonstrate the inaccurate accounts the Western world especially has about the African continent. He suggests that a European account of Okonkwo will portray him as a grunting savage, who senselessly killed a messenger and himself. This in turn, is one of the main purposes of Achebe’s book; to provide the other side of the story, of the Igbo people. He clearly critiques colonialism and its documentations in history; he wants to make it clear that it is not the Igbo people’s fault that they were subjected to conquering. His book speaks for the Igbo people, the side of the story in many colonizing accounts that are never told.


message 4: by Amalia (new)

Amalia Quesada | 8 comments Throughout the book, I could not help but notice the excessive use of Igbo language Achebe incorporates into his text. However, other than that, he writes the entire book in English, as a visual representation of the importance of a cultural difference between the Igbo people and the white missionaries in the book. From his decision to write the entire book in English, I also get the feeling that Achebe’s intended audience was for the Western world, rather than natives to the African continent, or more specifically, Nigerians. He is almost mocking the style in which writers from the colonial period wrote in about Africa. However, by incorporating the Igbo language, songs, and folktales, Achebe manages to capture the true essence of the Igbo culture for his audience to cherish.
Going back to a previous blog I posted earlier, I feel that Achebe continuously challenges stereotypes about African cultures throughout the book. For example, at some point in the book, the villagers of Umuofia laugh at Mr. Brown’s translator because his articulation and words that he uses is noticeably different from their language. Africa is not a country, it is a continent. Yet even today, there are countless people that refer to speaking an African language as “speaking African.” Achebe almost pokes fun at the Western world for being so naïve; the African cultures are far too complex and rich for them to ever understand fully and document. He praises the Igbo culture by mentioning parts of its culture throughout his writing, hoping to capture its beauty and astonish his audience, particularly Westerners, about how little they actually know about Africa.
While I was in South Africa, the stereotypes and single perspective I ever learned about the African continent my whole life angered me. It made me reflect on all of the history textbooks I ever read throughout my entire academic career, how much I actually ever learned about Africa and its cultures, how its people were actually portrayed in the text. I was almost angry with myself for believing this information, but to an extent I realized that it was not my entire fault, because it was the information I was fed since I was born, as so many other American children are today. Other than becoming even more grateful for my opportunity to experience part of the African culture for myself, I realized that the only true way to learn the whole story about something is to experience all parts for yourself, not through the stories of others. The importance of storytelling has been passed through history not only as entertainment, but also as a way to pass on traditions, knowledge, and cultures across the world. It is an educational tool with flaws, as stories can always be warped and changed into a single story. Thus, stereotypes, misconceptions, and assumptions are formed, and the only way to test or challenge them is to experience them as an individual, and spread that newfound knowledge. That is what I have been doing since I got back.


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