July 11, 2012 | Conflicts In Umuofia | Different types of conflicts in the Igbo’s society Conflicts in Umuofia Chinua Achebe was born Albert Chinualumogu in Ogidi, Nigeria on November 15th, 1930. Achebe wrote many novels, but “Things Fall Apart” is the famous one among them. Achebe studied English, History, and Theology at the College of Ibadan. He was a Senior Researcher Fellow at the University of Nigeria and professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.
The novel “Things Fall Apart” was written during the period where Nigeria was about to become independent from the “Britain” (Rhoads, 62). Chinua Achebe is strongly amazed and pleased to teach the whole world through his books and novels the past and unknown history of Africa precisely the Igbo’s society where he came from. He took his time to picture and spread out through the novel the socio cultural problem of the colonization of Umuofia by the Europeans. Achebe had many reasons to write about Africa and specifically about the Igbo’s culture because at this time African writers used to generalize Africa in their books or novels.
The novel ‘Things Fall Apart” presents the various controversial conflicts in Umuofia village before and after the colonization of the village by the Europeans. I will analyze the various conflicts in Umuofia’s society especially the conflict between Umuofia customs culture and the Europeans culture. Chinua Achebe’s famous novel “Things Fall Apart” has enlightened my knowledge about African’s culture and raised many questions. The situation before and after the incoming of the Europeans, the various conflicts in the society can lead us to get a better understanding of the conflicts that had risen after the colonization.
The incoming of the Europeans disturbed everything. It had effects on their judicial system, their religion, culture, economy, language, tradition. It is a new system, a new life for Umuofia. The Europeans made so many changes. They brought education, built hospitals. Therefore, the changes had raised a cultural conflict between Umofia’s people and the Europeans. A new religion, new justice system, a new language, the division of the society, the conflict between Okonkwo and his son, the trade, Okonkwo’s death, all constitute the conflicts brought by the Europeans.
Umuofia was a peaceful village. The people who lived in this village respected each other. They had their own culture, their own gods, and their own rituals different from any other culture. In Umofia’s culture, they had so many gods like the Earth god, “Agbala- the oracle of the Hills and Caves” (Achebe, 12), she could predicted the future, and they had to listen to Agbala, and follow her instructions; Chi was another god, which could be considered as a judge. Achebe stated in “Things Fall Apart,” “A snake was never called by its name at night, because it would hear.
It was called a string” (9). It was like superstition. They believed that the snake could do any harm to them, so they were afraid of it at night and used other names to call it. People of Umuofia had strong connections with their belief, their culture. Men in Umofia were considered as everything; they were the one that can do the hard work like harvesting the yams, climbing the palm oil, and to get involved as a member of the clans. Men symbolized power while women symbolized weakness. However, in the Igbo’s society, they did not accept any violence toward the women.
Men had to respect their wives, even though some of them broke that rule sometimes and beat their wives. The case of Uzowulu beating his wife and get punish for what he did can be an example used by Achebe to show the value of the respect toward women in “Things Fall Apart. ” Women had to stay home to take care of the house, to cook, to take care of the kids, help the men in the fields and they were able to harvest only the coco-yams. In addition, the women war was the most powerful war that got the Igbo’s society out of the colonization. The yams symbolized their economy’s wealth.
The egwugwu were the ancestral spirits. Nine men formed the egwugwu, which could be seen as the night member of a judicial board. The whole novel went around Okonkwo as the main character and the one that kind of stay faithful to the veneration of his culture until he hung himself. Okonkwo was the son of Unoka, a lazy man who did not have any ambition other that having debts all over the village. That was all he knew well to do. In Umuofia, agbala is the name of the oracle of the hills and caves and it was also the name given to a lazy men. Therefore, Okonkwo was ashamed of his own father because he as lazy, misfortunate, irresponsible and was not a member of the clan. Since his young age, Okonkwo started to work so hard to be different from his father. He was so strong. Okonkwo had three wives: Nwoye’s mother his first wife, Ekwefi his second wife, and Ojiugo his third wife, and had several children. He was the master of his compound. “…his wife Ekwefi protested that two goats were sufficient for the feast he told that it was not her affair” (Achebe, 165). Okonkwo had the fear of his own weakness. He did not want to receive orders from other people. His children and his wives were afraid of Okonkwo.
In reality, he was a great man in his heart, but he had to show his cruelty, because he did not want to show Umofia’s people and his family his “gentleness” and “idleness. ” “I wish she were a boy” (Achebe, 173). From the beginning of the book to its end, Ezinma, his second’s wife daughter, was the only person that he sympathized with. Ezinma listened to his father and understood him so Okonkwo did also. They had a great relationship. Okonkwo wished that Ezinma were a boy instead of a girl because she was so strong, stronger than her brother Nwoye was. Okonkwo was a great warrior.
His fear of fear of weakness helped him to be a member of the clan. That was his dream; he worked so hard to become someone very important in Umofia’s society. Sadly, his fear also brought him down piece by piece. Okonkwo respected the gods, before eating; he always gave food first to the ancestors, the spirits. According to Korang in Making a Post-Eurocentric Humanity: Tragedy, Realism, and Things Fall Apart, he stated, “In a community where personal distinction, the circumstances of one’s birth, is the route to “aristocracy,” Okonkwo, the son of the lazy and socially worthless Unoka, has a definite sense of what he aspires to be.
He wants to be one of “the lords of the clan. ” En route to that goal, he is determined to be everything his father was not, since his all his life Unoka earned nothing but social opprobrium for being lazy, improvident person he was” (17). Okonkwo did all his possible to show to the whole village the differences between him and his father. Even the same bloods fled in their bodies, their vision were different one from another. His father mistakes did not prevent him in his success.
Okonkwo made it to the clan when he came back from the war with the heads; the elders of the village started to see in him his manliness, they started to trust him and let him drank the palm oil. He became a respectful man of the village. Okonkwo broke the week of peace by beating his wife. During that period, no one had the right to curse someone else or did any kind of violence; it was supposed to be peaceful all along the week. The gods were not happy about that. Another time, he shot his third wife Ezeudu. Those things were considered as minors sins.
Okonkwo by mistake killed a boy in the funeral of Ogbuefi Ezeudi, the oldest man of the village. Ezeudi was a leader and an elder of the clan. He used to deliver messages from the Oracle. That was an abomination. They had to banish Okonkwo from the village in order to save themselves from the rage of the gods. Okonkwo lost everything he had fight to gain in his whole life. He had to leave his fatherland and refuge to his motherland. Okonkwo had to spend seven years in exile with his family. During this period, the Europeans came into Umofia and settled down.
Since then, everything had change. The Umuofia before was not anymore the same. The Europeans came with the word of God as an excuse to establish their new law, new language, new tradition, new economy, and new religion in Umuofia. Mc Laren in his text “Things Fall Apart: Cultural and Historical Contexts” stated, “As Toyin Falola explains in his History of Nigeria, by 1914 the British “were preoccupied with consolidating their gains and establishing a new political system”(25). The missionaries had come to Mbanta village and Umuofia with the word of God.
They preached people telling that they should believe in only one God and not in many gods. They told the people that their gods do not have any power. The missionaries were speaking the truth about the religion. It does not matter that they wanted those people to have faith in the real and only God. The matter is that they already had their plans . They knew what they were up to. The Christianization of Igbo’s society has become a point of revolution. The British found a great opportunity to go to Umuofia and they did not find any king or president as they expected.
Consequently, they had the occasion to colonize the Igbo’s society and get away with whatever they wanted from them. “At any rate, “pacification” was the route to “civilization,” and the Igbo were to be civilized by British standards and under British rule, using British-imported goods, the English language, and the Anglican religion…” (Wren, 30). The barrier was wide open. The people of Umuofia were uneducated. Working in the fields was their only career. A war had been led between the people of the village and the British. The missionaries built their Church in the evil forest and survived t. People were surprised to see what they believed in for long time was just superstition. The gods they used to adore did not really have any powers. The old Umuofia did no longer exist. Everything had changed. In Korang’s study of “Things Fall Apart,” he claims that if the Umuofia’s society keeps holding on so tight to their own dignity and if they know the value of their humanity, they will not need any outsider forces to resolve their problems. The British came into Umuofia to implant his “hegemony” and change the old Umuofia with the rejection of all its goods.
That will be the revolution of new justice, new religion, education, health, new laws (22). The Europeans led the Igbo’s society to various types of conflicts: the conflict between father and son (Okwonko and Nwoye), cultural conflicts between the rejection of Umuofia’s customs and the new Europeans’ customs. Okonkwo had always been in conflict with himself. He had conflict with his own father, then with his son Nwoye. Okonkwo and his son Nwoye never get along together. Okonkwo had always seen in his son his father’s temperaments because Nwoye was not strong like Okonkwo and he was lazy.
When the missionaries came into the Igbo’s society, Okonkwo and his family were still in exile. His mother’s families were very kind to him, but it was not what he wanted. He did not have any other choice at this time; he had to move on and keep showing his manliness. The conflict between Okonkwo and his son had really started when Okonkwo killed Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna was a fifteen-year-old boy from another village. They traded him to Umofia’s village as a sign of peace because people of his village, Mbaino, killed the wife of one of the elders of Umuofia.
He lived with Okonkwo for three years and built a strong relationship with Okonkwo’s son Nwoye. Okonkwo liked Ikemefuna because he had all the potentials he wished his own son had, but he never showed his appreciation to him. Ikemefuna started to call Okonkwo father, he used to help him in the period of harvest in the fields. When the gods decided that he was time to sacrifice Ikemefuna, Euzeudu said to Okonkwo, “That boy calls you father” (Achebe, 57), stay away from his sacrifice. Keep your hands clean from his blood. You are a father to him (Achebe, 57).
It was an abomination in Igbo’s society to kill a member of your family, even though Ikemefuna was not his real son, but he saw, and respected him as his father. The fear of fear of weakness made him follow them to the evil forest where they had to kill Ikemefuna. Okonkwo was trying to keep up his manhood by killing the boy when he tried to get protection from him. He was trying to show his strength, but he just made things become worse than ever between him and his son. Okonkwo confused strength with weakness. At the same time, he broke his relationship with his son.
That was the major reason why Nwoye decided to join the missionaries. Leach stated that Achebe portrayed Nwoye’s conversion to the Christianity because “the poetry” of the new religion captivated his attention. Nwoye was looking for his own path outside of the world he grew up. He wanted to make some changes in his own life. (1054). Okonkwo ended up not considering Nwoye as his son because he joined the missionaries. Nwoye accepted to become a member of God’s house. He took the best decision because God is, and will be the only one that can save people.
Nwoye got the opportunity to go to school to get an education by joining the missionaries. He went against his father and his customs, but he took the best decisions ever. The word of God made the people of Umuofia realizing that the gods of Umofia were not powerful as they thought they were. The incoming of the Europeans tore the Igbo’s society apart. In Umofia’s society, when a woman gave birth to twins, they considered that as a curse. They threw the twins babies in the evil forest. That was really bad, and they thought they were doing the good thing.
Every time Nneka, the wife of Amadi gave birth, and it was twins, they threw them away. Umofia’s people did not realize that they were killing those innocent babies just because of their evil culture. So, she realized that it was best to join the missionaries. The missionaries started to rescue the twins in the evil forest; it did not bother the people of the village at all, as long as they stayed in the evil forest with them. One time, they tried to get in the town and it was a real disaster. The people of the village and the missionaries went to a fight. “The white man is very clever.
He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart (Achebe, 176)”. Finally, people realized that the British played them, but it was too late to step on them and get their village back. In so many ways, the religion was kind of the key point to the destruction of the harmony among the Umuofia’s people. The people that converted themselves to follow God did the right thing because they realized or themselves the power of God. As an example, we have the survival of the missionaries in the evil forest, who supposed to die within a few days. This showed those people the weakness of all the gods they had adored. I do not believe in a python having power or the earth having power, or the river or anything else having power. I do recognize that they exist and it is part of some civilizations’ culture. However, it will be a big mistake if I try to change the mind of the people who believe in their culture just to take advantages of what they have.
The new Christians’ citizens of Umuofia rejected their tradition. They did not celebrate the week of piece anymore. I did not see anywhere Achebe talked about broken the cola nut when an Umofia’s man goes over another man’s house. During the harvest period of yams, they usually killed animals to feed the earth goddess. All those changed. Okili a man of Umuofia who decided to follow the missionaries, then he even killed the sacred python. He went too far. Why should you go against the same things you used to adore? You made your choice, it’s okay, but do not act like a nut.
In Asamoah-Gyadu study of the African theologian Kwesi A. Dickson (1984: 62) about understanding of the society, he explained that if a society wants to preserve its balance, the people in that society have to achieve their goals, continue their civilizations roots, and keep following their spirits advice. The people in that society need to keep up their good relationship among them, or else everything will fall apart. Any kind of abomination in disregard of the rules of the society will be taken in consideration and punish according to the rules (47).
The British also brought a new judicial board, a new government. It means that what was just for the Umofia’s people will be considered as unjust to the British and vice versa. The British has taken over. They started to take the people’s yams, which were their prior source of economy to send to Europe in exchange of building new routes and other stuffs. Children, adults, elders of Umuofia would be longer speaking their dialect. They would have to speak English. The children will no longer study about their own culture, but the English literature.
They would learn everything about Europe instead of their own society. The culture and the society had fallen apart. The British got everything they want because they intimidated the Umofians precisely by the massacre of Abame. It was clear that Igbo’s society and the British’s society were different in so many ways. The British were more educated, they believed in one God. They had a different justice system, a different language. The Igbo’s society was uneducated. They believed in so many gods. The yams were the source of their economy and their way to survive.
They were happy people and very rigid when it came to punition. Their justice system was very different from the British. The egwugwu were the judges, the spirits were the only one that could take decision upon them. All those type of things they had before the colonization just fell apart. By the time Okonkwo came back to Umuofia, everybody was following the British’s orders. Okonkwo killed one of the British’s messengers. Then he was waiting for his people to agree with him and go to war. However, his people disappointed him and step back. People of the village were even surprise by Okonkwo’s act (Achebe, 204).
Nobody wanted to go against the white man and the whites were able to get away with everything they wanted because people were scared of them. They thought they were evil because they were not supposed to stay alive in the evil forest. What was the main reason of the incoming of the British in Umuofia? Did they really come to bring them education, health? A culture is the most precious thing to a society. A culture is the identity of a society. Without a culture, you cannot say you have a society. The new ideologies brought by the British constitute the major conflict between Umuofia customs and the Europeans.
I can see that the Europeans made some positives things for the Umofia’s village as they did some bad stuff to them also. However, this is not a reason to enter in a land where the people have their own methods, their own laws, their own strategies, their own dialect, their own source of economy. You cannot just come and change everything and taking power over them. As Searle claimed, “Christian mission, by its very definition biblically, is a cross cultural enterprise” (49). It is for those powerful countries just a big game to take over other under developed countries and take all their goods away, enslave them and change their customs.
Those people have been forced to turn their back on their own traditions and it was kind of their fault because they were very passive with the British. They just let them established themselves and it was too late when Okonkwo by himself wanted to get the people on their feet and saved their culture. Okonkwo broke certain rules in his village, but he was the only one who fought for the savior of the old Umuofia. He was not able to fit himself in this new Umuofia and he had many regrets like killing Ikemefuna. He finally hung himself, which was a disgrace.
He fought all his life to get his fortune, and to be different from his father. At the end, he ended up like his father, a looser that they buried in the evil forest. It was like all he had done his whole life was not really matter. The destruction of a culture can cause people death. Many countries in the world have been colonized by other powerful countries. Many societies and cultures lost their real roots. Despite all the goods, the Europeans have done for the uncivilized village like bringing education, hospitals etc… They still remained to be the one that made everything falling apart.
Achebe himself was not even born when the Igbo’s society was colonized. It seems that Achebe is raising his voice in “Things Fall Apart” to show people in the Igbo’s society what they have lost, how great and beautiful their culture was. Everything fell apart until this day; things did not change in Nigeria, they still using the British system. Things will never be able to go back to the old culture. Works Cited Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor Books, 1994 Asamoah-Gyadu, Kwabena J. “The Evil You Have Done Can Ruin The Whole Clan’: AfricaCosmology, Community, And Christianity In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Studies in World Christianity Vol 16. No1. 46-62. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 July 2012. Korang, Kwaku Larbi. “Making a Post-Eurocentric Humanity: Tragedy, Realism, and Things Fall Apart. ” Research in African Literatures 42. 2: 1-29. Ethnic NewsWatch. Web. 17 June 2012. Leach, Josephine. “A study of Chinua Achebe’s Thing Fall Apart in Mid-America”. The EnglishJournal. Vol 60, No 8. Kansas City, Missouri. November 1971: 1052-1056. McLaren, Joseph. “Things Fall part: Cultural and Historical Context. ” Critical Insights: Things Fall Apart 19-32.
Literary Reference Center. Web. 17 June 2012. Rhoads, Diana Akers. “Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart”. African Studies Review. Vol 36, No 2. September 1993:61-72. African Studies Association. Searle, Alison. “The Role of Missions in Things Fall Apart and Nervous Condition. ” Literature ;amp; Theology Vol 21. No. 1: 49-65. Humanities International Complete. Web. 9 July 2012. Wren, Robert M. Achebe’s world: The historical and cultural context of the novels of Chinua Achebe. Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, C. , 1980.