In Things Fall Apart, what were the effects of colonialism on the region?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

European colonization significantly impacts Igbo society throughout the novel Things Fall Apart. Achebe depicts how the Europeans began colonization under the guise of religion and education. Mr. Brown and his ministry appeal to society's outcasts by initially recruiting pariahs of the Igbo community. Gradually, the Christian religion entices more notable members of Igbo society, and the rift widens between the missionaries and native community. The colonizing Europeans also set up schools, trading posts, and government institutions. Achebe writes,

"From the very beginning religion and education went hand in hand. Mr. Brown's mission grew from strength to strength, and because of its link with the new administration it earned a new social prestige" (64).

The native citizens learn how to read and write, and the trading stores increase economic opportunity throughout the land. However, the Igbo culture suffers as a result of colonization. Traditional practices like the killing of twins are considered illegal under the European government, and Umuofia's tribal court loses its authority. The European administration is also rigid in its understanding of Igbo culture, which creates additional friction between the two groups. Eventually, the overzealous Christian converts provoke the natives into burning down a church, and the village leaders are unceremoniously arrested. The Umuofians are left with a choice, either rebel against the powerful Europeans or submit to their new government. By the end of the novel, the Igbo society capitulates, and their culture dissipates.

MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Essentially, the impact of colonization is to break apart the Ibo societal structure. In some ways, this has negative effects: traditions are destroyed, and those who follow Ibo law are suddenly subject to British punishment. Many villagers die or remain in jail because of their adherence to their own rituals and traditions, rather than the recently imposed British structure. Religious conflict is brutal, and both villagers and missionaries die because of their inability to adapt to change.  Okonkwo demonstrates the worst that could happen to someone who is unable to transform when history forces change. His aggressive stance toward the missionaries brings about his own destruction.

There are some positive effects of this interaction however. The Christian missionaries bring a kindness and acceptance that many villagers do not know. The practices of leaving twins to die, or turning out "undesirables" are abhorred by the the missionaries, and many women and disenfranchised members of the tribe find a place within the structure of the church.


kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, is a novel about Nigeria in the 19th century before colonialism. It is a tale about  a great westler and elder. Itis not until the novel's end that the reader learns about colonialism.This novel is really a display of one author's opinion of what happens when colonialism enters a culture--things fall apart. The tale is really Okonkwo's story and shows how he became well known however he was stubborn which was always a problem. As a result, a stray bullet from his gun fatally killed someone. He was exiled, along with his family, for 7 years. When he returned everything had changed.

This is a common occurance in countries where colonialism takes over the culture; people return to their homeland to find out that they no longer recognize the place and they are no longer accepted there.  (See the Inheritance of Loss in Enotes which also related to colonialism in India)

atyourservice | Student

The land changed, the people were no longer the same. Some people accepted the new fate and no longer did things the traditional way. Before the colonists came the land was known for believing that twins were evil, which was the main reason they were left in the evil forest but after the colonists came twins were no longer thrown away, the church took them from the evil forest instead and raised them. Okonkwo was no longer seen as the man he once was, the traditional man no longer meant anything, and those who were unable to move along with the changes or accept them, usually suffered a great deal such as okonkwo and killed themselves.

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Things Fall Apart

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