I finished reading Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” yesterday. Reading it on the Kindle I had no idea I had reach the end. It happened so abruptly, I wasn’t prepared for the sudden end. I wanted the book to go on. But that’s not a disappointment, right? It’s a sign of the author’s genius, taking us by the hand and guiding us through the novel, it’s plot, it’s denouement, it’s ending. Truly a masterly tale.
Why the abrupt ending disappointed me is this: the missionaries had arrived, conversions were going on, executive power was being exercised. I, for one, was interested in finding how Christianity got established and other forms of animism, ancestor worship, were wiped out. This is a subject of vast potential as most societies retain their cultural identity while converting to a new faith. The Christians of Nagaland still celebrate their past customs and belief in spite of having converted to Christianity. Likewise, in ancient church denominations in Kerala worship begins with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp, a Hindu tradition.
Okwonko of Umofia will be one of literary history’s unforgettable characters because of his sensitivity to his culture and its practices. The fact that he goes into exile willingly in accordance with the wishes of his tribe is significant. Its importance arises from the fact that he is a hot-blooded warrior and is willing to fight for the upkeep of his culture and traditions.
However, one thought lingers: is it so hunky dory in traditional societies? Achebe’s Umofia makes us think that there isn’t any rebellion in the Igbo tribe of people and all are obedient and nice. Such an Utopian society screams for explication. That community would seem like an author’s fantasy rather than harsh reality.
Anyway, Things Fall Apart is one of the defining work by an African writer and will remain so for a long time.