What is the role of mythology in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe?

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I find that one of the most compelling aspects of Achebe's novel is the way the reader is brought inside the culture of Umuofia in order to understand it from the inside out. In this sense, I find the use of the term "mythology" a bit misleading, since in Umuofia the stories and practices that we might identify as "myth" in fact play a vital role in the daily lives of the people and form a historical practice that we as readers of the novel grasp but which outsiders, like the missionaries, can't comprehend.

Take, for instance, the episode in which Enoch "unmasks" one of the egwugwu. The egwugwu are the living gods of the clan; even though to the Christians they are simply men wearing masks, to the people of the village, they represent the highest divine authority. When Enoch attacks one and reveals the man underneath the mask, this desecration does not show that the egwugwu are frauds but instead causes the other gods to rise up in anger. As a result, the gods of Umuofia gather in force and burn the Christian church to the ground. While the missionaries might see this as a form of mob violence, for Umuofia this act is a form of divine justice.

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Scholars have suggested that the use of mythology in Things Fall Apart stresses the relationship between nature and culture and the significant role of the cultural past in defining African identity. A myth that recounts a quarrel between Earth and Sky is central to the story, and other myths of the natural world play a significant role as well. They all contribute to the author's message and help reveal the African perspective.

These types of myths exist among cultural groups all over the world, and they help solidify cultural identities in new and changing societies. The African people have a history of connecting with the natural environment. Holding on to this history through myth helped them bond as a group during and after the colonial invasions. The mission to colonize the people of African included efforts to obliterate their culture; keeping the myths of their culture alive help them hold on to their values and perspectives. Myths that explain the natural world promote cohesion in the group by revealing a uniquely African perspective. They link the people to their homeland and encourage them to embrace their historical roots.

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