In the end of the novel, Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo takes his life after realizing that his village will not go to war with the European imperialists. Throughout the novel, he has been portrayed as a strong warrior whose biggest fear in life is to appear weak. But, he does commit suicide, which can be perceived as “taking the easy way out”. Because Okonkwo hung himself, has he become weak like his father? Just some food for thought!
Throughout Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is constantly speaking of things in terms of “womanly/soft” or “manly/strong/forceful.” After reading the end of the book, I couldnt help but wonder whether or not his suicide would be considered “womanly” or “manly” in hisown eyes? What do you guys think?
In Chinua Achebe’s essay, “An image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,”Achebe believes that Conrad dehumanizes Africa and Africans. Achebe provides textual evidence, such as when Conrad describes the natives’ languages as “a violent babble of uncouth sounds” and “exchanged short grunting phrases.” Conrad also occasionally compared the natives to animals. For example, when describing some of the first natives he sees Marlow says, “black rags were wound round their loins and the short ends behind waggled to and fro like tails” (15).
Although Achebe accuses Conrad of dehumanizing the natives, isn’t Achebe guilty of dehumanizing by focusing on a character who has a disconnect from human emotions and willing to kill to show strength in his book Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo, the main character, believes that showing any emotion is showing weakness. He beats his wives without showing any emotions, except anger. Okonkwo also kills Ikemefuna, whom he considers his own son, in order to prove that he is strong enough to do so. By creating a character with no emotions and willing to kill to prove himself, is Achebe also guilty of dehumanization?
“Now he has won our borthers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (176).
I was intrigued by this statement that Obierika makes to Okonkwo. As I thought about it, I realized that the whole Ibo (Igbo) tribe was held together by their common beliefs in the religion and traditions if their tribe. Now that the white men have come into the Ibo tribe and forced many to begin questioning the traditions and religion of the tribe, the tribe is now “falling apart.” I have conflicting views about this notion, because I feel that it is a good thing to question society/authority, but at the same time, in this instance questioning society/culture has led to the unraveling of the Ibo tribe. Any thoughts?
I wanted to address the song they sing when a woman dies on page 135:
“‘For whom is it well, for whom is it well?
There is no one for whom it is well.’”
We talked a lot in class today about the different views on women and the idea of the woman being valued as a mother and being the cornerstone of the family and being a nurturing figure. We saw a lot of this in Uchendu’s speech to Okonkwo: “when there is sorrow and bitterness [a man] finds refuge in his motherland. your mother is there to protect you… mother is supreme.” (134) I think the song really ties into this idea because it is sung when a woman dies, not when a man dies. With the phrase “there is no one for whom it is well” it suggests a sort of communal suffering. In the context of this being used as a lesson for Okonkwo to stop moping around the phrase can be taken to mean that everyone is suffering in some capacity so don’t mope around because everyone is dealing with something that is difficult for them. In a community context the song provides further evidence for why mother is so supreme. It suggests that when a woman dies everyone mourns and it is a huge loss that is not felt by just a single person. The interrogative syntax of the first line of the song as well as the repetition of “for whom is it well” further emphasizes that there really isn’t anyone who doesn’t suffer from the death of a woman. This provides a lens for us to see that the Ibo people clearly value women a lot more so than we initially saw with the frequent beating of women.
In Things Fall Apart, Ekwefi tells a poignant proverb of a turtle who cunningly misleads the birds into allowing him to attend their feast and then tricks them out of their meal. Usually, such deceitful behavior would be punishable by death, such treason would surely yield horrible punishments in Europe. Yet, in this “savage” society the turtle does not die, rather he carries a mark for his actions, his jagged shell. This reminds me of the way that Hester, from The Scarlet Letter, was treated. She defied the very principles that the Puritan society was founded upon: purity and fidelity, and even though she was outcasted her life was spared. Therefore, I’m just curious to what you guys think of these two questions.
In your opinion, is it more civilized to kill a person for their wrongdoings or to allow them to live but to distinguish them from the rest of the general population? What does this say about the two different societies?
With Mother’s Day coming up within a couple weeks, I wanted to bring up the topic of motherly love. We can experience Ekwefi’s distraught over her ogbanje curse and her 9 deceased children, so it’s easy to understand why she values her bond with Ezinma so much. They are extremely close, and actually act more like equals than they do like a mother and a daughter. We see that she is willing to disobey Chielo’s commands, and follows Ezinma regardless of the potential wrath of the gods. She knows that there might be consequences, but she vows to herself that she will rush into that cave if she hears Ezinma crying. She is willing to do anything for her child, and I think that sacrifice is admirable. We’ve see it in many other places (Hester in Scarlet Letter, Eva in Sula, etc.), and I think it is something we can identify with so much because it casts the mother in a positive (and yes, feminist) light—she is strong and brave, and willing to make dire sacrifices for her children if necessary. Even if we don’t classify ourselves as feminists, we tend to feel a sort of pride when we see a female character taking on such a strong role. Motherly love is something we really need to cherish, so make sure you reciprocate that love back to yo momma this Mother’s Day!
As we read through the lovely novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe I have come to realize that though we, as a class, may have some idea of what the Nigerian drum beats and trials are, our ideas may be foggy. So I did some searching and found the musically talented people of Nigeria singing, dancing, reenacting, and drumming to the tradition of the Nigerian culture. So F Block English and followers here is one of many Nigerian traditions.
We discussed a lot in class today about the idea of weakness and what constitutes weakness. I think an interesting point that came up which spawned from this was that of there being two different ideas of weakness in the book. From an outside perspective the reader can see that Okonkwo internalizing all his emotions can’t possibly end up positively. I would argue that in the way he lashes out at his wives and even beats them is a demonstration of how he expresses all of his suppressed emotions. Okonkwo’s desire to suppress his emotions also comes from his fear of weakness, and that definition of weakness is based on everything that his father, Unoka, was. But driven by this fear of weakness, Okonkwo seems to have developed an obsession with stereotypical masculinity: strong and a leader of his house. What Okonkwo fails to realize, however, is that sometimes emotion can be seen as strength. For example, no one would’ve judged him if he had stayed home and not gone into the forest for when Ikemefuna was being killed. But no, he had to be all masculine so instead in a frenzied moment of showing his “strength” and ends up giving Ikemefuna the last blow instead. In that moment he had to chose between acting out of his love for Ikemefuna and his fear of appearing weak and he acted out of fear. To me, there is nothing weaker than basing one’s actions on fear rather than on rational moral principles. Another example where Okonkwo’s refusal to show emotion comes up is when he fails to admit the guilt he felt at breaking peace week after visiting the Oracle. As a result, people didn’t think as highly of him because they thought he disrespected the Gods. Supressing one’s emotions and acting out of a fear for appearing weak do nothing to reveal that Okonkwo is truly strong, they instead suggest the exact opposite. Thus, although Okonkwo tries so hard to appear strong, to the readers he appears quite weak and even pathetic.
In both Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart, there is the the motif of comparing African natives to animals. Many people believe that Conrad’s perception of the natives as, ants, savages and crouching creatures, is extremely racist; Conrad’s way of dehumanizing an entire race. But within the first paragraph ofThings Fall Apartthe same comparison is being made yet the tone is praising the strength and agility of a cat, as a way to compliment a human. Amalinze the Cat, a fierce competitor, remained unbeaten for seven years was given the nickname “the Cat” because his back never touched the ground (3). The cat is renowned for its agility and speed, all favorable qualities, that can only be intended as a compliment for Amalinze. Even though both authors compare Africans to animals, their intentions could not be more opposite.