Saturday, July 28, 2007

Things Fall Apart-Interpretation

Finished Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” today. I would like to interpret the book in my own way.
The book, first of all, is a wonderful illustration of tribal customs in the heart of Africa, the Niger delta to be precise. The tribes, where tradition is steeped in customs and rituals where rules have been followed for generations, where respect for ancestors is as profound as death for heretics. If I were an anthropologist I would be delighted to have such a treasure house of information loaded in an eighty three page novel.
Things fall apart is the story of a man and his family especially his three wives, his children and the tragedy they encounter in the final pages. It is the story of a man who values tradition to the hilt and wants to make a mark in his clan while holding his tradition aloft. The protagonist had a deep down abomination for his father who had no respect in his village and which propels him to earn that very respect the traditional way. He is banished form the village because of an inadvertent fault but accepts his fate. But things turn topsy turvy from thereon. When he returns he fins that things have changed. He wanted to get back his social standing in the clan but the clan is itself on the verge of being destroyed.
On the other side the weak and those who can’t gather respect in the traditional manner sides with the Christian missionaries to gain respect. Here, a war situation arises but the point is that it is better to be a weak man in a strong clan (read missionaries than being a strong man in a weak clan. Ultimately Darwin is right.” Survival of the fittest” as the saying goes.
The point is the protagonist fails to adapt to the changing times and kept clinging to old values. Was it good? Was it bad? Without being subjective I would like to draw a critical conclusion.
Things change and when u fail to adapt to changing theme you end up getting massacred. Nostalgia is all right but clinging to old thoughts and dying with it is a natural consequence. Since the voice of Christians were more profound and powerful than the clans which had created their own restrictions, might won and rights got redistributed. The Christians bought education and winds of change to an otherwise rigid society.
The book is a beautiful illustration of how Christianity spread in Africa thus heralding the death of old value customs.
But, why the sane never happened in India which too follows the oldest religion in the world. Why Christians failed to make headway in India in spite of British dominating India for 200 years. It is because Hinduism is a very flexible religion. And it has survived centuries of invasion. It is a pacifist religion and even has a place for heretics like me.