Things Fall Apart: The Relationship Between Cultural Relativity and Superiority

1352 Words 6 Pages
By utilizing an unbiased stance in his novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe promotes cultural relativity without forcibly steering his audience to a particular mindset. He presents the flaws of the Ibo tribe the same way he presents the assets—without either condescension or pride; he presents the cruelties of the colonizers the same way he presents their open mindedness—without either resentment or sympathy. Because of this balance, readers are able to view the characters as multifaceted human beings instead of simply heroes and victims. Achebe writes with such subtle impartiality that American audiences do not feel guilty for the cruel actions of the colonizers or disgusted by the shocking traditions of the tribesmen. The readers stop …show more content…
Even though the novel depicts a societal conflict between colonizers who attempt to impose change and tribesmen who reject that change, Achebe avoids stereotyping the colonizers as “bad” and the tribesmen as “good.” The protagonist, Okonkwo, is portrayed with little sympathy. An angry, callous man, he is shown to act outwardly only in violence. Growing up, his father was a weak, effeminate man, and Okonkwo aspired to be everything his father was not: “He was ruled by one passion—to hate everything his father had loved, one of these was gentleness” (13). Even though his motives are established, Achebe does not attempt to justify the selfish and detrimental actions of Okonkwo. On the contrary, Okonkwo’s uncle Uchendu is rendered as a selfless, compassionate, and wise old man. When Okonkwo is banished from his tribe, Uchendu receives his nephew with open arms and helps him re-establish his life. “As soon as Uchendu saw him with his sad and weary company, he guessed what had happened, and asked no questions” (129). By showing both undesirable and appealing characters, Achebe offers a reputable and non-biased portrayal of his native people to unfamiliar American audiences. Simultaneously, Achebe masterfully demonstrates multiple temperaments of the colonizers by foiling Mr. Brown with Reverend Smith. Mr. Brown is the first missionary sent to Umofia, and he manages to penetrate the barrier between himself and the tribesmen by learning about their customs and politely