"As he walked back to the court, he thought about that book. Every day brought him some new material."
Patrice traveled around the Mediterranean during his younger years, unaware of colonization and its effects. He saw what remained of Roman temples, even (Arab) natives speaking fluent French. And he was reminded of a not-so-old film. (It was about Algerian soldiers who fought during World War II alongside their French brethren. They experienced discrimination, which stripped them off of the dignity that individuals serving in the Army were bestowed upon.) My coursemate wondered if the colonial powers (from Europe) left a good legacy, as he sensed a troubled society. I asked him about "Things Fall Apart," Chinua Achebe's masterpiece. It took place in Nigeria, the author's homeland, during the 19th century. The Igbo people, whom Achebe and his kin would be identified, witnessed how the British settlers colonized their land. It was a slow, irreversible process. I didn't give further details.
I could imagine how Achebe's novel would stir strong emotions from modern-day Africans. Some might be saddened by it while others may be indifferent to the themes. And then there was the language choice. Achebe wrote his novel in English, which wasn't the native dialect. Not a few locals might accuse him of perpetrating the atrocities of the white settlers (by writing in English). Standard Igbo may have rarely been used among Achebe's tribe, as he himself saw the white men during his formative years. Furthermore, the Igbo tradition became a thing of the past. Could Achebe's kin be faulted for the turn of events? It was hard to tell, as history was often depicted as the story of the ruling class. In this case, the white men.
Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently?
Okonkwo prided himself for being the strongest man in his tribe. Masculinity wasn't only about strength, but also a strong belief in the Igbo customs that would glorify masculine traits. The first half of the novel described Okonkwo's village in great detail, complex yet interesting to those who study the past. Achebe revealed the lack of a strong leader, even the foundations that would lead to a strong establishment. The author stopped short of suggesting that this was the reason behind the colonization of Africa. It was a blessing and a curse, but it was more of the latter in many parts of the continent.
A particular incident was supposed to give Okonkwo the chance to show his mercy and tender side. Alas, real men were supposed to be proud and merciless. For some reasons, the elements conspired against him. This man, a staunch defender of his native customs, would be reviled by his own people.
Achebe didn't have any main themes, as the setting revealed the unpredictability surrounding Okonkwo and his large family. My coursemates pointed out the weather pattern, which enabled the villagers to plant and cultivate yam. They missed the bigger picture, which perceptive eyes could see. The author wasn't implying that all white men won't understand what "Things Fall Apart" was all about. After all, this was about destiny. Okonkwo was a bit too late to find out that there would be consequences for every action. The social structure of the Igbo community, similar to India's, would include outcasts. Christianity won't discriminate such people, which turned the tide against Okonkwo and those who were rigid to bend to the foreign culture.
The elder members of the Igbo community stressed about communication, which established kinship between tribes. It was missing in Okonkwo's generation, who thought that a real man must be stoic in all circumstances. Tradition won't allow them to explore what was beyond the bushes and the cursed lands, which might be another factor for their downfall. Achebe wasn't initiating the blame game, subtly suggesting that there would still be hope. Poverty could only give succeeding generations a small window, though. It wasn't different from Pre-Colonial Africa.