Modernization and Traditional African Culture

At the advent of Modernization there has been so much that has been revealed concerning the traditional African culture. In line with this, is the Chinua Achebe's famous work entitled 'Things Fall Apart'. In this particular novel, there are several issues that have been brought into view. Before exploring the themes and in particular modernization and the traditional African culture, it is essential to bring into view an overview of the plot summary of the novel. The novel, therefore, it is set in Umuofia of which is a combination of nine villages in Nigeria. This is where the Igbo people live. They happen to be a people that are deep rooted in their traditional culture (Achebe, 1996).Accordingly, they are ruled by a council of elders who settle the disputes among them along with religious leaders who play the same role. In actual fact, Chinua Achebe's novel "Things Fall Apart", has its plot comprising of three parts. First of all, the novel brings us to Umuofia Village in Nigeria where the Igbo people live. The protagonist of the novel is brought out in the context as an diligent man and a leader who was highly respected by his society. The daily life of these people is explained together with the traditions and spiritual customs they practice.In this sense, the family of Okonkwo the protagonist is exposed of which he rules his three wives with a heavy hand (Achebe, 1996, p.9). He places much value to his eldest daughter along with Ikemefuna, a young man who was given as compensation that the war between two villages may be settled. For duration of three years he lived with Okonkwo who finally killed him. Okonkwo happens to be so hardworking and respected by his people that Ikemefuna is allowed to live with him. Since his father Unoka was a lazy man, he was purposed to work hard and become opposite of him. His second wife Ekwefi had only one surviving daughter Ezinma since she had a problem with child bearing. Okonkwo loves this daughter and contrary to the dictates of the culture, he wishes that the daughter was a son.On the other hand, he had a son named Nwoye who did not meet the expectations of the father. This is for the reason that he loved to listen to his mothers stories compared to Okonkwo's. As a result, his father treats him roughly and this translates to Nwoye developing hatred towards Okonkwo his father. Following this point, when Ikemefuna is killed, Nwoye escapes from his home and joins the church and in addition he changes his name to Isaac. Having been warned by the oldest man in the village, considered to be wise not to kill Ikemefuna as he was like his own child, Okonkwo ignored the warning and participated in the killing. Consequently, things started falling apart for him in the sense he accidentally killed a man in a ritual funeral ceremony (Achebe, 1996, p.88).

Subsequently, he and the family were exiled for seven years in order to appease the gods that he wronged by committing murder. Following this point is the second part of the plot whereby the novel is set in the place where Okonkwo was in exile. His friend Obienka visits him in Mbanta, Okonkwo's mother's village and updated him of the changes that had taken place in Umuofia while he was away. In this connection he is told of the arrival of white man in the Village. He is also informed of his son who joined the Christians and missionaries. The arrival of the white man brings about a lot of tension in the village. The return of Okonkwo and his family in Umuofia marks the third and the last part of the plot of the novel. In this section, Okonkwo returns to the village and to his astonishment, there are a lot of changes that have occurred at the arrival of the white man (Booker, 2003).Following this point, many villagers have joined the Christians with the old traditional government being replaced by the white government. Due to these changes, Okonkwo who has fought hard to protect his culture and in particular the African traditional culture is so much upset. In his effort to protect the African traditional culture from being corrupted by the Whites, he speaks out against them and tries to persuade his fellow villagers to reject the white government. .In the process, Okonkwo and other tribal leaders destroys the local Christian church set up by the white government (Achebe, 1996). This was done in order to reclaim their native land since they supposedly thought that their gods and religion was being insulted. This incident led the white government to imprisoning them. This further extended the insult and in addition humiliation to the native leaders.

In this combination, the villagers hold a meeting of which the white government sends messengers to stop it. In the process Okonkwo kills one of the messengers. To his surprise, the villagers just let the other messengers to escape as they watch Okonkwo who killed. He then decides never to let the whites imprison him at any time (Achebe, 1996). In the long run, a local leader in the white government comes to take Okonkwo to court only to find that he had hanged himself. This marked an end of Okonkwo who presumably was a great hero.From the point of view of Chinua Achebe in this novel, Things fall apart; modernization has a great effect on the traditional African culture. So to speak, it led to the loss of the traditions that the African has so much held to. In the novel, modernization brought about language change in the sense that the people changed the language and adapted to the language of the white man. In the same line of thought, modernization brought about an introduction of a new religion of which it was the Christianity brought about by the missionaries. The system of government that was formerly made of the male council of elders was replaced by the system of the white government. The traditional practices held by the Igbo people were made of no good value in the light of Christianity (Booker, 2003).Having been faced by modernization, the African traditional culture was destroyed. This can well be understood by studying the stability of the society. The cohesion and the solidarity of Igbo community seem to be weakened by modernization evidenced by the lack of cooperation when Okonkwo kills the messenger and is not supported by the villagers. This is because an individual draws strength from the community that he belongs and the vice versa. Another thing to note is that whenever different cultures come into contact there is always struggle for dominance (Booker, 2003). In the course of the struggle, one culture has to be superior to the other.According to Chinua Achebe, the African traditional culture was overtaken by the western culture thus reclamation of the native land, tradition and religion becoming impossible. In this regard, with Igbo people it was almost impossible to recover their culture and religion (Booker, 2003, p.266). Instead, Chrisitianity swept the traditional African culture. Again, the repression of Igbo language reveals that modernization brought about cultural changes even in terms of language.In consistence with this, the behavior of the missionaries is questionable especially for Reverend Smith who sees things as black and white. He continually condemns Mr. Brown who gave room for discussion with Igbo people in order that he may get to understand their culture. Always, cultures have proved to be limited or rather partially limited in making room to understanding other cultures. It is true that with modernization, culture cannot refute the importance of flexibility as cultures need to comprehend each other and not struggle for dominance. This is for the reason that Reverend Smith, seem to have been seeking for dominance that resulted to the local church being destroyed.For the protagonist of the novel, since he has refused to embrace change that comes with modernization, holding to the African traditional culture he ends up killing himself(Achebe,1996, p 147). Modernization implies a kind of reconstruction in terms of culture in the larger perspective. Although it is a good idea but should not be forced as it is in the case of Reverend Smith who saw things in white and black. Nonetheless, modernization had effects to the African traditional culture ranging from positive to negative ones.

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