The Motivation of Chinua Achebe to Portray the Negative Effects of Imperialism in the Novel Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart provides more than a detailed account of the main character, Okonkwo’s, journey. With this text, he allows the reader to witness the difficulties placed on certain tribal African cultures during the “end of one time and the beginning of another.” (Achebe, Chinua. Interview. May 27, 2008.) Growing up with an English education, Achebe focused on the lives of others until he realized there was a “gap in the bookshelf.” (Achebe, Chinua. Interview. May 27, 2008.) Things Fall Apart focused on the story of his people and their struggles with imperialistic domination. In turn, writing the novel and showing the world the real stories behind tribal Africa filled the gap.

During his interview, Achebe stated that he felt something needed to be done. At the time, European authors wrote most of the literature accounting African culture, making it difficult for anyone to have a true sense of the trials and tribulations several tribes were facing. Since most of Europe was in a scramble for Africa, their literature inevitability contained some bias. Achebe set out to tell the truth through fiction. (Achebe, Chinua. Interview. May 27, 2008.) Seemingly contradicting, but profound at the same time, Achebe’s fictional story revealed the clash of two civilizations with distinct religions. The book that was creating a “gap in the bookshelf” was Things Fall Apart. Once written, Achebe filled the gap and gave the world a vital piece of literature exhibiting Africa and specifically Nigeria.

Achebe stages his novel during an imperative transition period, showing the effects imperialism. As defined by Baldwin and Quinn in Defining Imperialism and Colonialism, imperialism is territorial conquest driven by ideology. (p. 2) The beliefs and traditions of tribal Africans lead the outside world to view them as savages, but Achebe proved that although different, Africans are not objects to be manipulated by others. Before Things Fall Apart, the negative effects of imperialism weren’t written about, leaving a “gap in the bookshelf.” With sharp criticism of the imperialistic process placed on Africa, Achebe showed that values of a society are always valid within that specific culture.

Throughout Things Fall Apart, a traditional African society is portrayed before, during, and after the imperial era. The reader becomes a witness to a moment in time when one culture is in contact, in conflict, in conversation with another culture, and something was bound to happen. (Achebe, Chinua. Interview. May 27, 2008.) History has always shown that religion, traditions, and people are all drastically changed as a product of European power, but the “gap in the bookshelf” feeling pushed Achebe to write a true account of the destruction of his home and people due to the harsh reality of imperialism.

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The Motivation of Chinua Achebe to Portray the Negative Effects of Imperialism in the Novel Things Fall Apart. (2022, Nov 30). Retrieved April 19, 2024 , from

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