Thursday, January 24, 2013

Through Their Eyes: The Writing of Post-Colonialism

The structure of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart beautifully captures the spirit of oral tradition, as well as provides a literary experience with the added historiography of a native Ibo member.  Bill Ashcroft’s Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies addresses this issue of post-colonial perception.  Through Achebe’s words and imagery, we break from the dominant Euro-centric view and see through the eyes of the colonized.  Achebe invites us to join the Ibo, not only through his practice of repetition and the language of his characters, but also through his own dialect.  In describing the silence that accompanies night fall, Achebe writes “a vibrant silence made more intense by the universal trill of a million million forest insects” (10).  A few chapters later, the author describes the decoration of the children and “expecially their hair” (38).  We can almost hear Achebe’s voice as we read his vernacular.  
While a majority of the novel is seen through the eyes of the Ibo, the closing paragraphs are written from the view of the white Commissioner, who brings forth his own methods of writing the history of the Ibo people and colonization.  Throughout the novel, the warrior Okonkwo lived and ultimately died for what he felt defined the Ibo universe and culture. The depth of his devotion is heartbreaking and, as the Commissioner contemplates the story of this Ibo warrior's fall, he remarks that “one must be firm in cutting details” (209).  The proposed title of the Commissioner’s writings, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger, paint the Ibo as unsophisticated, barbaric animals who must be “pacified” (209).  In this choice of ending, Achebe signifies the victors of the fight against colonization and cultural eradication of the Ibo. The unjust portrayal of this rich and spiritual culture to which we, as readers, have been invited moves us to feel what Achebe considers the miracle of literature—we can identify with a people and culture once so foreign to us.  

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