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Culture Conflict Can Bring Dramatic Changes to Societies in Things Fall Apart Essay


Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe analizes the coming of the white man and its results on the culture of the people of Umuofia. The coming of the white man brought about culture conflict which affects the people of Umuofia's religion, their judicial system and their social life. Their lives are transformed in many different ways and change the perspective they have.

The arrival of the white man affects the people of Umuofia's religion and cause culture conflict. The people of Umuofia have many gods. Agbala- the oracle of the Hills and Caves. "People come from far and near to consult it" (12). People consult it when they have a discussion or altercation with their neighbors and also, they can discover what their future held for them. Chi is also a personal god which judge people by the work of their hands. They also believe that if they say yes that their chi also says yes. The people of Umuofia are very obedient to their gods. They don't go to war without consulting their gods. When a daughter of Umuofia was murdered in Mbaino, they didn't just decide to go for war or do things on their own; they consulted their gods and they were asked to demand s lad and a virgin from the people of Mbaino. However, if the people of Umuofia had not obeyed their gods, and had gone to war that they were told not to go, they would be defeated. Even when Okonkwo broke the week of peace by beating his youngest wife, he made the necessary sacrifice as was also demanded by their god. Okonkwo also shot Ezeudu's son accidentally, he had to go on an exile for seven years which was a crime against the earth goddess. If they had disobeyed the law by allowing Okonkwo to stay in the village, the people believe that all the clan will be punished and their leaders said "if one finger brought oil it soiled the others." More so, the people of Umuofia don't desecrate their gods. Their egwugwu who gives justice is feared by the women and their children. Whenever the egwugwu is approaching, the women and children always shout and run away (63). They also don't unmask the masquerade. The masquerade's identity is not known by anyone who doesn't belong to the clan's secret cult.

The religion of the people of Umuofia is totally completely different from the white man's religion. This situation caused a cultural conflict between the white man and the people of Umuofia. The white man's desire is to impose his religion on the people of Umuofia. The white man believes in one God which he believes has created the heaven and the earth. He also said his God made the entire world and the Umuofia's gods. He wanted the people of Umuofia to abandon their gods and follow his own religion. The white men belittle the people of Umuofia's gods by saying different things about their gods. The white man says that the people of Umuofia's god are gods of deceit who tell them to kill their fellow and destroy innocent children. The white man says "your gods are not alive and cannot do you any harm and they are made of piece of wood and stone" (146). Hearing and seeing all these from the white man, the people of Umuofia were not satisfied with the white man's religion which was a cause for a culture conflict.

The coming of the white man also influenced the form of justice in Umuofia. In Umuofia, everybody understands the law. The egwugwu is the highest and final court in Umuofia. They don't lie when reporting their cases before the egwugwu. There judgment is based on the true evidence. This can be seen when Uzowulu and Mgbafo came before the egwugwu to clear up their dispute. Each of them stands at different direction to state their cases. "The egwugwu went to consult together in their house." The egwugwu settle their dispute and they were all happy with it. Although Uzowulu knows the law about beating his wife, he will not listen to any other choice except from the egwugwu. However, the white man's form of justice is similar, only the interpreters and the whites know the rules. They also built a court where the District Commissioner judge cases in ignorance. The white man had court messengers who brought men for trial. "The court messengers guard the prison, which was full of men who had offended against the white man's laws." The court messengers beat the prisoners and made them to work every morning clearing the government compound and fetching wood for the white commissioner and the court messengers. Aneto and Oduche were fighting a land, when Aneto murdered Oduche, the white man judge this case by hanging Aneto to death and placing his family in the prison.

Umuofia's social life was also affected but it was due to the cultural conflict which was caused by the white man. The people of Umuofia use what is considered the hierarchy standard, which is, the father is at the top, followed by his wives, and children. Children fear their parents. Also, their warriors were feared and well respected. For instance, Okonkwo defeated a wrestler at the age of eighteen and was placed at a higher level. Although, he was still young, everyone respected him. "At an early age, Okonkwo had gained fame as the greatest wrestler in all the land." The outcasts or osu are the people they offer to a god, they will not marry nor be married by the free-born. They live in a special area of the village, which is close to the Great Shrine. They are the bottom of ladder children, and they should not mix with the free-born in any way.

On the other hand, the social life of the white man is totally different from that of the people of Umuofia which also lead to a culture conflict. The outcast or osu which are at the lower level in the village are now very important people. They made the rich poor and the poor rich. The clans were very rich but after the coming of the white man, they became poor and nobody was now rich. White men also destroy the hierarchy of the people of Umuofia, Umoye who feared his father before the coming of the white man, disrespected his father after joining the white man's religion. He no longer talks or visits his father. He told Mr. Kiaga that he had decided to go to Umuofia, where the white missionary had set up a school to teach young Christians to read and write. Their interpreters who the people of Umuofia know as weak people and not very strong, come from the village were they fear the warriors of Umuofia. Those are the people that are now interpreting words to them. "The white spoke through an interpreter who was an Ibo man though his dialect was different and harsh to the ears of Mbanta." The white man humiliated the leaders of Umuodia. When they put them in prison, their hair was shaved and their hands were handcuffed. "At night the messenger came in to taunt them and to knock their shaved heads together."

The coming of the white man cause culture conflict in the people of Umuofia's religion, their system of justice and their social life.

Works cited:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Greenwich: Fawcett Publications Inc., 1969

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