Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I don’t know how I feel about this book, in all honestly. Once again, I am torn between feeling lost and feeling irritated. I am supposed to like this book. And I did, actually, on some level. But, I also hated it and don’t understand what I was missing. This is supposed to be an important book. It’s on school reading lists from junior high school to college (I hadn’t previously read it, however), but I am not sure why.
The writing style bothered me a bit. It was easy to read, literally, almost too simple. The sentences seemed matter of fact and passionless. The subject matter, on the other hand, was extremely difficult to read. While I was taken into the tradition and customs and enjoyed learning about and feeling these things, what I continue to think about is the meaning.
On the one hand, I was able to grasp so much about the clan life of an Ibo village in Nigeria at some undisclosed time in history (late 1800’s?). I found it rather disturbing, but it made sense. I didn’t really feel any great camaraderie with any of them, particularly the anti-hero, Okonkwo, who I found rather loathsome.
On the other hand, I felt compassion for these people whose lives were being disrupted by the aggressive European missionaries.
I was struck by a common issue throughout this book and others I have read: what we do to our own people is okay, but what outsiders do to us is not. Even if they are doing the same thing. It makes me sad.
Achebe himself has been quoted as saying, "My sympathies were not entirely with Okonkwo . . . . Life just has to go on and if you refuse to accept changes, then, tragic though it may be, you are swept aside".
I just feel weary......

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