Social Organization, Leadership Roles, and Colonial Presence in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”

Good Essays
Natalie Clark
Anth 2315/ Dr. Kennell
July 26, 2011
Social Organization, Leadership Roles, and Colonial Presence in Chinua Achebe’s
“Things Fall Apart” Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” tells the story of Okonkwo, an ambitious man from the Igbo village of Umuofia, in modern day Nigeria at the onset of the Colonial era. Okonkwo is a rising member of the society until he inadvertently kills a kinsman and must flee for seven years to his mother’s clan so as not to offend the earth goddess of the village. During this time, British Colonialism reaches the Igbo people and quickly alters their traditional way of life. Through this tale of the Igbo Achebe seeks to illustrate the complexities of African societies and how deeply
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The second consequence was the ties of kinship that connected the nine Igbo villages. While descent and clanship was traced through the father’s line, intermarriage among the villages created ties to the mother’s village and connected multiple clans. In this way, the Igbo society maintained nine autonomous, though interlinked, villages without a direct formal hierarchy of social or political power such, as a head chief or king between them. The greatest of all elders were the ancient ancestors and founders of Umuofia. These ancestors essentially filled the highest political roles in the village. They resided as judges over disputes and gave advice in troubled times. In this way it was not necessary, and would in fact have been an insult to the ancestors, for a man to fill the highest political role in the village because the ancestors had the final power anyway (Achebe, 55-57). It was said that “the land of the living was not far removed from the domain of the ancestor” and that “a man’s life from birth to death…brought him nearer and nearer to the ancestors” (Achebe, 73). The deep complexity of Umuofian society meant that colonialism’s effects were devastating to the village’s way of life. The British administration which colonized the area did not understand the Umuofian traditions and instead decided to treat them like children who needed to be taught the proper ways of society (Achebe, 109). The beliefs and practices of
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