Cultural war in things Fall Apart

Essay by pzbilalCollege, Undergraduate April 2005

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Many societies have beliefs rooted deep in ancient religion. Some beliefs include polygamy, polytheism, and patriarchy, or rule by men. One such culture is that of Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Polytheism and polygamy are custom in the clan, and the role of each family member is very defined. The men are overly domineering. The women and children are treated poorly and often beaten. Life in Achebe's Umuofia would seem very different to someone living in modern day America.

Chinua Achebe's 1959 novel, Things fall Apart, takes place in the 1890s, just before British colonization. The novel focuses on the nine Ibo-speaking villages of Umuofia, which is Ibo for "People of the Forest." Umuofia is the village in which Okonkwo, Achebe's protagonist, prospers in everything and is able to secure his manly position in the tribe. Now known as Nigeria, this land was a primitive agricultural society completely run by men.

Umuofia was known, and as Achebe says, ."..feared by all it's neighbors. It was powerful in war and in magic, and priests and medicine men were feared in all the surrounding country" (11). Perhaps, its most powerful and feared magic was called .".. agadi- nwayi, or old woman it had its shrine in the centre of Umuofia ... if anyone was so foolhardy as to pass by the shrine past dusk he was sure to see the old woman"(12). The people of Umuofia are very devoted to their religion and their magic. These ancient beliefs were believed to give the people some sort of power over their oppressors.

One custom of Umuofia that would be very different from Western culture is Polygamy, the practice of having many wives. This custom is practiced in the connected nine villages of Umuofia. In fact, a man's wealth is partially measured by the...

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