In his novel “Things Fall Apart,” Chinua Achebe vividly depicts and highlights the cultural significance of Igbo village life. With an examination of the Igbo’s democratic system of governance and an emphasis on the Igbo’s principles and self-governing nature, Achebe highlights the attractiveness of Igbo civilization and dispels the myths promoted by European colonial powers. In addition, Achebe demonstrates the Igbo’s openness to new ideas and traditions while maintaining a solid moral compass. In his story, Achebe suggests that the Igbo people did not need European interference to advance because they already had institutions to bring about change and growth.
As illustrated in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” Igbo culture is a multifaceted web that spans all facets of community and society, from politics and religion to economics and the arts. The Igbo, or Ibo, or Igbos, are a people native to southern Nigeria who can trace their ancestry back millennia. The importance of family and neighbourhood in Igbo society is paramount. Achebe emphasizes this in his depiction of the self-governing tiny community. The Igbo people consciously adopted this system because it gave them more freedom. All residents have an equal voice in the decision-making process. The democratic nature of Igbo governance is shown in the novel’s depiction of significant decisions being taken at meetings of elders (called Adichie).
According to Achebe, the Igbo consciously selected the small village entity as their ideal form of governance due to a desire for autonomy. The community’s self-governing system fostered a spirit of equality in which all residents had a voice in policymaking. Achebe shows how the Igbo civilization established a democratic government, challenging the common European perception of Africans as backward and uncultured. The clan’s elders, known as Richie, played a significant role in making decisions on behalf of the group. This meritocratic method was distinguished by putting personal achievements ahead of one’s family tree. In sharp contrast to Europeans, the Igbo people showed greater cultural tolerance by acknowledging that what is good among one culture may be viewed as abominable by another.
In contrast to the stereotype of Africans many Europeans hold, Achebe shows that Igbo culture is highly developed and tolerant. It becomes clear that the Igbo are more tolerant of various cultures than the Europeans, who view them barbaric. Recognizing that what is beneficial to one group may be repugnant to another, these people are open to the possibility of competing worldviews coexisting together. This contrasts with the Europeans’ condescending and demeaning attitudes, demonstrating an appreciation and knowledge of other cultures.
Achebe dispels the myths about the Igbo spread by Europeans by contrasting the Europeans’ tendency toward violence with the Igbo’s calm approach to religious disagreements. At the same time, Europeans believed that societies developed from tribal forms of administration to monarchies and, eventually, parliaments; the Igbo had already instituted a representative democracy. The European heritage, which had a lengthy history of holy wars and religious persecution, starkly contrasted with the Igbo’s refusal to engage in spiritual combat. Achebe’s story shows that the Igbo religion was not inferior to Christianity because both religions stressed humility and submission to the gods’ will. Achebe also contrasts the restrained and righteous use of battle by the Igbo people with the Europeans’ excessive violence in the name of religion.
Achebe also explores the economic and social aspects of Igbo culture, highlighting the success of the community’s structures for redistributing wealth. To prevent any one man from acquiring absolute authority, the Igbo economic system required ambitious men to redistribute their surplus riches to the clan periodically. Achebe highlights the relevance of this custom by highlighting the value of acquiring titles within the clan. This dispersal of wealth policy prevented the buildup of money from leading to an unbalance of power. According to Robert Wren, ozone requires a person to give up a portion of their riches to the community in exchange for a given title. Achebe gives a 360-degree vision of Igbo culture by highlighting the economic interdependence of the people and organizations he describes.
In addition, Achebe highlights the importance of art, poetry, and music to Igbo culture by depicting their beauty. These creative acts serve as vital cultural identifiers because of the complex ways they are entwined with rituals and ceremonies. Achebe’s usage of English, which captures the unique linguistic intricacies of the Igbo people, serves as a representation of the Igbo language itself. Achebe conveys a more profound knowledge of Igbo culture and its relevance by combining these artistic and linguistic elements into the tale.
Most importantly, Achebe shows that the Igbo people could have made it into the contemporary world without any help from the Europeans. The egwugwu were examples of the Igbo society’s justice systems; they served as neutral arbiters of conflicts. These structures, however, were supplanted by foreign institutions like district commissioners and court messengers when British colonial powers arrived. The Igbo’s independence was eroded, and their culture was upended due to the intrusion of Western organizations. Achebe argues that Africa’s current state of affairs is due to a combination of native culture and European meddling.
In “Things Fall Apart,” Achebe delivers a nuanced story that criticizes stereotypical views of Africa, praises the continent’s achievements, and stresses the value of cultural autonomy and preservation. The democratic principles, cultural tolerance, and economic structures of Igbo society are praised in the novel as being far superior to their European analogues. Achebe challenges the concept that Africa required the white man’s assistance to progress by demonstrating that the Igbo people had their institutions for change and development. Achebe challenges readers to rethink cultural norms and work toward a more equitable and progressive society by revealing the depth and breadth of Igbo tradition.
In conclusion, Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” paints a complex and nuanced depiction of Igbo culture, rejecting Eurocentric generalizations while complimenting Igbo society for its many strengths. Throughout the novel, Achebe extols the Igbo for their democratic government, religious tolerance, productive economy, and artistic expression. By dispelling negative perceptions about Africa and praising the ingenuity of the Igbo people, Achebe inspires his readers to embrace cultural diversity, question their assumptions, and strive for a more just and inclusive society.
Diana Akers Rhoads, “Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart,” in The African Studies Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, September 1993.