Chinua Achebe wrote his classic novel Things Fall Apart in response to Joseph Conrad's popular novella Heart of Darkness, which portrayed Africans as uncivilized savages and ignorant, dangerous cannibals.
Throughout Things Fall Apart, Achebe challenges prejudiced European beliefs regarding Igbo civilization and society by depicting a rich, organized culture with traditions, rituals, and ceremonies. He illustrates traditional Igbo culture by vividly describing The Feast of the New Yam, the Week of Peace, and numerous other ceremonies, and he elaborates on the complex religious views of the Umuofia villagers. The Igbo have a polytheistic, patriarchal society which honors their ancestors and bestows titles to successful men. They are also deeply religious and obey the commands of the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves.
In Umuofia, village ancestors are revered, and the egwugwu represent the spirits of the nine villages. The egwugwu are also judges and preside over disputes. Achebe continues to demonstrate the civility of Igbo culture by portraying its judicial system as fair, balanced, and practical. He also illustrates meaningful common rituals like the breaking of the kola nut to begin important meetings and the offering of palm-wine to guests.
Achebe elaborates on the complex marriage customs, which involves a bride-price, a Uri ceremony, and an isa-ifi ceremony. Characters like Obierika are also portrayed as intelligent, rational, and tolerant, which undermines prejudiced views regarding Africans. Overall, Achebe challenges the belief that Africans are uncivilized savages by depicting a rich, civil society, which significantly differs from the culture of western Europe.