Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Post-Colonialism and Things Fall Apart

Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin describe the key concepts in post-colonial studies and the evolution of the term post-colonialism/postcolonialism. This term first referred to “cultural interactions within colonial societies in literary circles,” but now includes “the study and analysis of European territorial conquests. . .[and] the differing responses to such incursions and their contemporary colonial legacies in both pre- and post-independence nations and communities” (186-187). Today’s description of post-colonialism relates to the interaction between Okonkwo’s village and the missionaries. With colonialism everything moves at a faster pace, which is seen in Things Fall Apart as the arrival of the colonial administration, changes the spiritual feeling of the village and its proverbs (location and orality are two other concepts related to post-colonialism).

There is the emphasis on location during “colonial encounters” (190), which is seen in Things Fall Apart. The Christians wanted land, so the Igbo gave them the land that they considered to be “taboo.” However, the survival of the Christians on this land rapidly killed the faith of many of the Igbo. As the Christians invaded the Igbo land, there was much mixed feelings as outcasts, women who had twins, and those harmed by the Igbo faith such as Nwoye converted. However, Okonkwo did everything in his power to prevent conversions and to save his land and values, which inevitably leads to his death. The differences between the Igbo and the Christians were not only based on their language barrier and orality, or relationship to the land, but also the lack of understanding for each other’s values. As Ajofia explains, “We say he [Mr. Smith] is foolish because he does not know our ways, and perhaps he says we are foolish because we do not know his” (Achebe 191). As stated in “Key Concepts in Post-Ccolonial Studies,” universalism offers a hegemonic view of existence where the dominant culture fails to acknowledge or value cultural difference (235). The Christians see their culture as dominant and therefore imposed their religion and government on the Igbo. Looking at post-colonialism one sees that one’s culture is able to influence another’s and vice versa, as the Christians invaded Igbo lands with their own values and as the death of Okonkwo left an impact on the commissioner and the soldiers who had to take down the body of one of “the greatest men in Umuofia” (Achebe 208).

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