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Things Fall Apart Across Cultures: The Universal Significance of Chinua Achebe’s 1958 Reconstruction of the African Heritage

FI Mogu

Abstract


Chinua Achebe wrote his classic novel, Things Fall Apart in response to the stark negative portrayal of Africa and Africans by European Colonizers. This idea appears to have been conceived during his undergraduate days at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. Joyce
Cary’s Mister Johnson and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness appear to have negatively impacted and prompted Achebe to respond to the biased European colonial portrayal of Africa and Africans. That initial written response was Things Fall Apart!

The characters, societies and views expressed in the novel essentially are universal to humankind. There may be variations here and there in different social settings, but the novel portrays people in a communal environment grappling with survival on a daily basis on planet earth. The European colonizers painted a negative, one dimensional picture of
Africa and Achebe felt challenged to set the records straight. In doing this, he revealed both the beautiful and ugly in the African ethos. This essay celebrates Things Fall Apart as a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel of colonialism. Achebe’s text reaffirms African people’s pride in their cultural heritage in the backdrop of attempts to dehumanize and
portray them as savages by Europeans.


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