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Postcolonial Analysis of Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”


Chinua Achebe’s renowned novel, “Things Fall Apart”, is a powerful and thought-provoking work that has captivated readers for decades. While it tells a story set in pre-colonial Nigeria, the themes explored in the novel are deeply relevant to postcolonial discourse. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of postcolonialism and examine how it applies to Achebe’s masterpiece.


Before we dive into the analysis of “Things Fall Apart” through a postcolonial lens, let’s first establish what postcolonialism truly means. Postcolonialism is an academic discipline that emerged in the late 20th century, gaining widespread recognition in literary and cultural studies. It aims to examine the effects of colonialism on colonized societies, particularly in terms of power dynamics, social structures, and cultural identity.

In the context of literature, postcolonialism is concerned with the representation of colonized peoples and their experiences, as well as the ways in which colonizers have shaped these narratives. It seeks to challenge dominant Western perspectives and give voice to marginalized voices.

Background on postcolonial theory

Postcolonial Analysis of Chinua Achebe's

The roots of postcolonial theory can be traced back to the rise of European colonialism in the 15th century. However, it was not until the 20th century that scholars began to critically analyze the impact of colonialism on colonized societies.

One of the key figures in the development of postcolonial theory is Edward Said, whose influential book “Orientalism” (1978) examines the way in which the West has constructed and portrayed the East as the “other”. Other notable postcolonial theorists include Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Frantz Fanon.

Postcolonial theory is a multidisciplinary field, drawing on concepts from various disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, history, and literature. It seeks to deconstruct colonialist narratives and challenge the power structures that have been imposed by colonizers.

Overview of Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”

Postcolonial Analysis of Chinua Achebe's

Published in 1958, “Things Fall Apart” tells the story of Okonkwo, a proud and respected Igbo warrior in pre-colonial Nigeria. The novel is set in the late 19th century, just before the arrival of British colonizers. Through the experiences of Okonkwo and his community, Achebe explores the impact of colonialism on traditional African societies.

The novel is divided into three parts, each representing a different stage in the colonization process. The first part introduces us to the Igbo way of life, with a focus on the societal values and customs of the community. The second part delves into the arrival of the British and the resulting cultural clash, while the third part portrays the devastating consequences of colonization on the Igbo people.

Application of postcolonial analysis to the novel

Now, let’s apply postcolonial analysis to “Things Fall Apart” and examine how it reflects the themes of colonization, cultural clash, and identity.

Power dynamics between colonizer and colonized

One of the key elements of postcolonial theory is the examination of power dynamics between the colonizer and the colonized. In “Things Fall Apart”, we see this play out through the relationship between the Igbo people and the British colonizers.

Before the arrival of the British, the Igbo people had their own social structure and systems of governance. They were a proud and independent community, with their own customs and traditions. However, with the arrival of the British, this balance of power shifts drastically.

The British bring with them their religion, language, and laws, imposing them on the Igbo people. They also introduce a system of taxation and land ownership, which disrupts the traditional way of life for the Igbo. As a result, the colonizers gain control over the resources and livelihood of the Igbo people, leading to a power imbalance.

Furthermore, the British use violence and force to assert their dominance over the Igbo people, further cementing their power and control. This is evident in the scene where the District Commissioner orders the arrest of Okonkwo and other leaders of the community, using brutal force to subdue them.

Cultural clash and hybridity

Another important aspect of postcolonial theory is the exploration of cultural clashes and the resulting hybridity. In “Things Fall Apart”, we see a clash of cultures between the traditional Igbo way of life and the Western values brought by the British. This leads to a tension between the two worlds, as the Igbo people struggle to maintain their identity and resist the influence forced upon them by the colonizers.

We see this clash manifest through the character of Okonkwo, who represents the traditional values and beliefs of the Igbo people. He resists any form of change or influence from the outside world, fearing that it will lead to the downfall of his community.

However, as the novel progresses, we also see elements of hybridity emerge. This is seen through the character of Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, who rejects his father’s traditional ways and converts to Christianity. This represents a blending of cultures, as Nwoye adopts the new religion while still holding onto some aspects of his Igbo identity.

Representation of colonialist discourse

Postcolonialism also highlights the importance of examining the representation of colonized peoples and their experiences. In “Things Fall Apart”, Achebe challenges the dominant Western narrative of Africa as a primitive and uncivilized continent.

Through his portrayal of the Igbo people, Achebe showcases the richness and complexity of African cultures. He also challenges the European perspective by highlighting the destructive effects of colonialism on traditional societies.

Furthermore, Achebe presents the British colonizers as flawed and misguided individuals, rather than superior beings. This subverts the colonialist discourse that portrays colonizers as benevolent and civilized, while demonizing the colonized.

Themes of colonization, cultural clash, and identity

As we have seen through our postcolonial analysis of “Things Fall Apart”, colonization, cultural clash, and identity are major themes in the novel. But what do these themes truly represent and what implications do they have for postcolonial literature?

Colonization and its impact on indigenous communities

The theme of colonization is at the heart of “Things Fall Apart”. Through the experiences of the Igbo people, Achebe highlights the devastating effects of colonization on traditional societies. The arrival of the British disrupts the social, economic, and cultural structures of the Igbo community, leading to a loss of identity and a struggle for survival.

This theme also sheds light on the power dynamics between the colonizer and the colonized. It shows how the colonizer uses force and manipulation to gain control over the colonized, and the lasting consequences this has on indigenous communities.

Cultural clash and hybridity as forms of resistance

The clash between the traditional Igbo culture and the Western values brought by the British is a representation of the ongoing struggle for cultural survival in postcolonial societies. Through the character of Okonkwo, who represents the traditional ways, and Nwoye, who embraces some aspects of Western influence, Achebe shows the complexities of navigating cultural identity in a colonized world.

Furthermore, the emergence of hybridity can be seen as a form of resistance against the dominant Western narrative. By blending elements of their traditional culture with the new influences, the Igbo people are able to maintain their identity and challenge the colonizer’s attempts at erasure.

The search for a postcolonial identity

The theme of identity is also closely tied to the effects of colonization on indigenous communities. In “Things Fall Apart”, we see the struggle for identity reflected through the character of Okonkwo, who fears losing his culture and identity in the face of Western influence.

This struggle for identity is not limited to the individual level, but also extends to the community as a whole. Achebe portrays the Igbo people as a strong and proud community, but one that is ultimately unable to resist the overwhelming force of colonialism. This highlights the lasting impact of colonization on cultural identity and the ongoing search for a postcolonial identity.

Conclusion & implications for postcolonial literature

In conclusion, Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” can be seen as a powerful example of postcolonial literature. Through its exploration of colonization, cultural clash, and identity, the novel sheds light on the devastating effects of colonialism on traditional societies.

As a work of postcolonial literature, “Things Fall Apart” challenges dominant Western perspectives and gives voice to marginalized narratives. It also highlights the ongoing struggles faced by postcolonial societies in maintaining their cultural identities and resisting the influence of the colonizer.

Through its examination of postcolonial themes, “Things Fall Apart” serves as a reminder of the importance of representation and the need to deconstruct dominant narratives in order to truly understand the complexities of our world.

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