Things Fall Apart is a story about both the downfall of an Ibo Village, and the downfall of one of the villages most successful members. This story is a perfect encapsulation of the conquest of African tribes by Europeans in the late 19th century. Using a mixture of aggressive missionaries and turning tribesmen against their neighbors, we witness the deterioration of a culture.
When the Commissioner talks about the people of Okonkwo 's tribe, he sees them as savages.
Not as a tribe with cultures, customs, and beliefs. He sees them as crude and uncultured, and finds their customs “incorrect”. This definitely fits the concept of the white man 's duty, being the hero that teaches “savages” the “right” way to live. Taking place in the European imperial era, Okonkwo 's story gives us an example of colonial conquest. The first mission for the conquistadors is to try to convert the people to Christianity as peacefully as possible. If they can convert the tribe, the conquistadors can hold religious power over the them.
The relationship between the missionaries and the Africans begins as one of amusement on the part of the tribe.The missionaries claim the Africans worship false gods, and the Africans laugh off these notions. Most of the tribe brushes off the Missionaries as mad, and continue on with their lives. But, their words strike a chord in some of the younger tribe members, including Okonkwo 's son, Nwoye. In particular, the missionaries message of brothers fighting alongside in the darkness holds some people 's attention. Especially outsiders in the village.
Those who are looked down upon whether due to their appearance or status (Achebe, pg.155).Or those who do not agree with certain customs the Ibo people uphold. Two events mentioned are the killing of the twins, and the death of Ikefuma.When the missionaries ask for land to build a church, they are given a bit of land in the Evil Forest, where the tribe buries those who die of terrible disease and who are not considered holy enough to be buried properly “An “evil forest” was, therefore, alive with sinister forces and power of darkness” (Achebe, pg. 148).
The leaders of the tribe belief that by having the church built on unholy ground, the Gods will strike it down and the missionaries will be killed. When the church continues to prosper, this pulls more tribesman to conversion. To many of the converts, the white man is completely invincible against the Gods of the Ibo people.
They begin to see him as an all powerful person. They start to spread rumor of him being personally connected to God, and that he has the power to speak to the dead.(Achebe, pg.149) As more converts emerge, the church grows, and government begins to emerge. At this point, the clan decided to ostracize the missionaries at their converts, banning them from the the markets and other communal areas. Tension is growing between the people and the missionaries, and this climaxes when Okonkwo kills a messenger of the church.
I do not consider the conquering of the people as a military conquest, as there does not seem to be any military advantage to be gained by conquering the Igbo people. The conquest seems much more like the “white-man 's duty”, Europeans wanting to spread their empire. The conquest is not done by force, its almost like a disease. It spreads slowly through the tribe, and as more people converted to Christianity, these converts looked to their missionary as an authority figure. We see the switch from harmless missionary work to conquering force when the Commissioner is introduced.
In the Commissioner 's version of events, he does not give much thought to why Okonkwo killed the messenger, or who Okonkwo was as a man. The Commissioner sees Okonkwo 's people as primitive, and unimportant. He makes it very clear he is only there to publish a book, presumably to make money. He seems unaware (or does not care) of Okonkwo 's former position in the village, and does not even know his name.
The Commissioner completely skips over the stress and the pressure that he and his subordinates (and his European supervisors) are putting on the people of the tribe. He does not acknowledge or consider the feelings of the natives. The Commissioner considers himself too dignified to even witness Okonkwo 's body being cut off from the tree here he hanged himself “Such attention would give the natives a poor opinion of him”(Achebe, pg.208).
Okonkwo 's story is a classic one of someone who loses everything. He lost his place in his community, his own son, and eventually his life. He loses a place in his community, and must leave to start anew elsewhere. While he is gone, we see the village slowly but surely being conquered by the Europeans. Okonkwo loses his oldest son to the missionaries, mostly because he was abusive towards his wives and children, particularly his oldest son. When the missionaries first come Okonkwo, like many others, ignored them. Okonkwo chose to not be involved with anything regarding the foreigners, except to threaten his son to stay away from them. Which proved to backfire when Nwoye runs away from his family to join the missionaries (Achebe, pg.152). Like his village and culture, Okonkwo fell far from grace.
While I do not think that the conquest was a military conquest, the conquest of the Ibo and other surrounding tribes was still brutal and cruel. Turning the tribesman against each other than stepping in to be the ruling party. While not forceful, still sneaky and brutal. The Commissioner and other Europeans sent to govern the tribes, and did not consider them an intelligent and cultured civilization. They were considered uncivilized by their now ruling parties. Treated like sheep, not people.