Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Classifying Post-Colonialism

Ashcroft’s text makes an interesting point regarding the danger of classifying every colonial encounter according to “general background principles” (190). Rather than cast every one of these instances in literature under the ‘post-colonial’ umbrella and assume their homogeneity, each post-colonial experience should be analyzed for its specificity and unique differences. While the post-colonial experience itself is a fruitful area of literature, it is the “materiality and locality of various kinds of post-colonial experience that provide the richest potential” for these studies (190). As evidenced in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, it is the personal and intimate stories of the characters that impact post-colonialism not so much as a theory, but at a glimpse of the human experience.

A second author within the text, Slemon, also emphasizes the effect intricacy has on the value of colonial discourse by expanding the reader’s study of the historical movement on a more personalized level. His argument supports a major them expressed in Achebe’s novel, suggesting the celebration of each culture and individual character independently. While it is far easier to assume that the Igbo tribe was like any other African village, Slemon restores the value of examining differences among their transition from colonialism and the unique impact it had on their culture. If it were not for the variances that occurred in post-colonialism the framework for analyzing novels like Things Fall Apart would neglect to be as complex and multifaceted as they have become.

The characters Onkonkwo and his father, Unoka, depict this hazard of attempting to classify one another according to predetermined roles as determined by a larger society. The same neglect that occurs when all post-colonial experiences are labeled according to general principles is evidenced by these character's disagreement with one another and their homeland. Okonkwo’s obsession with proving his manliness overshadows any relationship he could have formed with his father, despite their differences. Because both characters are unable to accept one another’s individuality, they fail to appreciate the most simplistic of relationships as father and son. While Okonkwo and Unoka’s relationship is not ideal, it is necessary to recognize, as this article suggests, the intricacy of what makes their story unique. Yes, they could be classified as any other father and son who disagree, but by examining their culture, their native traditions, and their homeland, their relationship takes on a more powerful, emotionally rich tale.

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