1st September 2019
Mr Clement Cheng
Head of Department for English and Literature, Raffles Institution
One Raffles Institution lane
Dear Mr Cheng,
I am writing to you today to justify why Chinua Achebes novel Things Fall Apart should continue to be included in the English literature curriculum for students in this school.
Firstly, Things Fall Apart helps us gain awareness about Igbo culture in Africa from the view of the native people, which is one of the desired student outcomes of literature. As most books about Africa are written from the perspective of the white man and are mostly bias towards the white men. Even though the Igbo are described as primitive and savage by Mr. Smith, one of the missionary church leaders, the tribesmen show their etiquette through the proverbs they use such as “When the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for walk”(Chapter 2) and “If a child washes his hands he could eat with kings” (Chapter 1). Proverbs, a form of Igbo mannerisms, are used frequently throughout the novel as the art of conversation is regarded very highly by the Igbo people and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.(Things Fall Apart Pg6) The use of proverbs in the book shows the sophisticated language that the Igbo people has. Igbo proverbs are also entirely native in character and use and they contain native wisdom and philosophy. This elicits a sense of amazement in the reader as they realise how sophisticated the Igbo people are through the sophisticated language they use. The Igbo people are also not as savage as many of the missionaries believed. This is showed when a villager from Mbaino kills a woman from the Igbo village, the Igbo village elders and those with titles reach a peaceful agreement from the Mbaino tribe, instead of initiating war against Mbaino. [A]t the end it was decided to follow the normal course of action. An ultimatum was immediately dispatched to Mbaino asking them to choose between wars on the one hand, and on the other offer a young man and a virgin as a compensation. The agreement between the two tribes shows that the Igbo people can come to a rational conclusion instead of fighting one another. This elicits a sense of realisation in the reader as he/she now realises are not as primitive and savage the white missionaries believed them to be as they are able to think of solutions to a problem. Hence this makes the reader aware of how Igbo people really are as the book is and are not as ancient and violent they are perceived to be by the white men.
Secondly, Things Fall Apart also helps us develop awareness of the colonialism in Igbo society and makes us learn to empathise with the experiences of others, which helps us become empathetic and global thinkers which is a desired outcome of literature.In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, we consider how the title is a reflection of the effect of colonialism on the Igbo society. In order for cultural change to take place, the colonisers begin by introducing their religion. They allay fears by coming on a platform of peace, but their ulterior motive is to change the beliefs and culture of the tribe. And at last the locusts did descend. They settled on every tree and on every blade of grass; they settled on the roofs and covered the bare ground.While the quote is a symbolic representation, it accurately represents the intruders who have every intention to take over the Igbo society. This elicits empathy towards the Igbo tribe as the intruders plan to take over Igbo society by introducing a monotheistic religion and destroying the things that had been valued. Okonkwo knows there is nothing he can do to stop the death of all he holds dear, as he said The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart. This suggests that the white missionaries have gained a foothold in Umoufia and that it does not take long before they manage to convert everyone in the tribe to Christianity. The white missionaries also tell them that Your gods are not alive and cannot do you any harm. They are just pieces of wood and stone. And that they were based on lies. This elicits a sense of pity and sorrow towards the remaining Igbo people as it will result in the Igbo customs and practices being abandoned and maybe forgotten due to colonisation. Hence, Things Fall Apart helps us gain an insight on the negative impacts of colonisation and makes us empathise with the Igbo people that are losing their culture and beliefs.
I hope you will consider keeping Things Fall Apart as one of the literature texts. Thank you for your kind consideration.