Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

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Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is a story of colonialism and of the imperial conquest of Nigeria. However, despite this fact, the depiction of white Europeans in the novel never falls into the simplistic or stereotypical view of the colonial situation: that of Westerners as the evil and violent aggressors of an innocent African homeland.


As well as asking how Europeans are characterized in his novel, we must also ask by whom they are characterized. For most of the novel Achebe writes through the world view of someone from the Umofia or Mbanta tribes (the narrator speaks as though they believe in the tribes rites and ceremonies of the African peoples), and so the representation of 'the white man' is also mediated through another representation, that of the tribes themselves.
The first characterization of 'the white man' in the novel is that he is something impossible, something so alien to the way that the tribe lives that he can only be considered as part of a fictional story or imagining. Okonkwo and Obierika are speaking jokingly, each suggesting something even more outlandish and outrageous. The final thing Obierika thinks of is, "the story of white men who, they say, are white like this piece of chalk" (p.53). For the tribesmen the notion of the white man is so unimaginably other that it belongs to the realm of myths and stories.
Perhaps this is why, when the first actual white man appears in the story, he is rendered mythically. He comes to a tribe called the Abame, riding on what they think is an "iron horse" (p.101); later in the novel it is revealed to be a bicycle. ...
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