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What does Achebe have to say about the Igbo in Things Fall Apart?

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delma1995 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 19, 2013 at 8:41 PM via web

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What does Achebe have to say about the Igbo in Things Fall Apart?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 20, 2013 at 5:11 AM (Answer #1)

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It is important to note that Achebe deliberately presents us with a complete picture of African life, culture and society before the arrival of the white Europeans that cause so much damage and create so many problems at the end. Achebe deliberately means to present his mainly Western and white readers with a picture of African life pre-colonisation, and he uses this opportunity to deliberately challenge any notions that White Europeans may have of Africans being "ignorant savages" who "needed" the Europeans to help usher them in to a more organised way of life. In fact, as Achebe makes clear, the opposite of this is true. The Igbo society is shown to be incredibly sophisticated, with very clear and complex systems of law, punishment and reward. There is no sense in which this society could be dismissed as being "ignorant" or "backward." Note, for example, the way that restitution is made between two warring tribes through the delivery of Ikemefuna and another girl, and also how there are specific ceremonies and festivals that help order the time of the Igbo villagers:

Ikemefuna came to Umuofia at the end of the carefree season between harvest and planting. In fact he recovered from his illness only a few days before the Week of Peace began. And that was also the year Okonkwo broke the peace, and was punished, as was the custom, by Ezeani, the priest of the earth goddess.

This is just one example of many of a rich and vibrant culture with its out very clear order and logic and its own system of punishments and rewards. Achebe therefore deliberately presents the Igbo as a people rich in their own cultural heritage and as a tribe who are far from being "backward." This, of course, makes the arrival of the Europeans with the cultural disintegration that they bring all the more tragic. 

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