In Umuofia, the customs and traditions were impacted by imperialism. It is well known that the British used indirect and direct control over countries during the colonial period. For example, indirect rule in Southeast Asia allowed ‘indigenous aristocracy’ to “maintain law and order and to collect taxes.” In this way, indigenous people maintained some of their culture without having British totally take over all aspects of the government. Specifically, in South Africa, in a place like Umuofia, the British forcefully and directly controlled the government and the people.
This altered their culture and traditions within their society which mostly had a negative impact
. In India, prior to the British takeover, the pride of the high caste Indian people were hurt; British colonial officials refused to respect native traditions. The British customs and traditions were forced upon the Indians if they wanted to be respected or continue to remain in the upper caste of society. In the Umuofia society, a District Commissioner said,“We have a court of law where we judge cases and administer justice just as it is done in my own country under a great queen.
I have brought you here because you joined together to molest others, to burn people’s houses and their place of worship.
That must not happen in the dominion of our queen, the most powerful ruler in the world.” And just as Okonkwo had warned,the people of Umuofia are subject to England’s system of law and abiding by their queen. Another example is when Okonkwo takes out his war dress and wants revenge on the white men and their court for the treatment of the men from his tribe.
If Umuofia decides not to go to war over this event, Okonkwo will avenge their tribe. He remembers his past when the men of Umuofia were fierce and dreaded warriors and this was no longer there. “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog…” After this statement, the District Commissioner decided to help bury Okonkwo. It was very depressing to see that the Commissioner left and had agreed to write a book or a paragraph about Okonkwo’s actions.
The story was going to be about the arrogance and disrespect of a man who was once honored and an important part of the Umuofia people. It ended up being a lesson about what natives should not do and how they should behave. The people of Umuofia predicted, “It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming – its own death. The head of the egwugwu – Ajofia – talks to the interpreter saying that the white man should go home.” Direct rule damaged many aspects of indigenous societies from culture and traditions to religious conversion.
The impact of religious conversion on Umuofia in Things Fall Apart and South African society was powerful. White missionaries arrived in Umuofia with the goal of converting the society into Christianity. There were those who welcomed the change, and there were those who did not. When trying to convert people, the missionaries spoke logically and respectfully. Akunna, was a clan leader of Umuofia, and he saw similarities between Christianity and the their Igbo belief system.
Okonkwo’s son Nwoye joined the missionaries mainly because he was not truly accepted within his own family. Nwoye rejected many of the tribe’s beliefs. Nwoye’s father saw him as too feminine and he did not agree with killing newborn twins. It is accepted in the Umuofia tribe to throw away infant twins in the Evil Forest ‘because they are considered an abomination to the earth.’ Nwoye was also really upset when he found out that his father killed his good friend, Ikemefuna, “something seemed to give way inside him, like the snapping of a tightened bow.” Nwoye lost his relationship with his father as a result.
Nwoye didn’t respect the tribes decisions on killing because he felt killing was wrong overall. Nwoye eventually worshipped the Christian’s songs, not his own tribe’s songs, as he believed they helped him have peace. Nwoye believed now that his tribe was “brothers who lived in darkness and fear, ignorant of the love of God.” While Christianity was forced upon the Africans, totally changing their religion and culture, it offered some Africans a feeling of acceptance. Nwoye character in Things Fall Apart was one of them. The Christian missionaries did not plan on leaving Umuofia instead they wanted to build around the land in this community.
The missionaries asked the rulers of Mbanta for land so they could build their church. Uchendu agreed, but gave them a section of the Evil Forest. The Umuofia tribe believed that any person with any intelligence wouldn’t live in an Evil Forest. Uchendu told his people, the missionaries “boast about victory over death. Let us give them a real battlefield on which to show their victory.” While the missionaries seemed happy to gain more land, there was a lot of fighting that still occurred.
Some Umuofia people converted, some changed their minds, some were confused and were not sure what to do, what to believe, or who to follow as their religious leaders. There were many confrontations between the villagers and the Christians, mirroring the colonial period in Africa. Christian converts threatened to burn down the shrine and Umuofia’s village gods. The outcasts of their society joined the Christians and some villagers became enraged by their choices and threatened to kill them. The head missionaries still preached tolerance and wanted them to accept everyone. Just as in colonial times, there was direct control taken over the villages and Christianity was forced upon the culture, destroying the indigenous society’s own religion and beliefs.
In Umuofia, India, and Southeast Asia, social ranking had a powerful and lasting impact on the society. In India, A major benefit to the higher ranking Indian population was the new school system established. “The admission of the first Indian woman to Madras medical college occurred in 1875.” Also, Sati was outlawed and widows were allowed to remarry and railroads, telegraphs, and the post office began and expanded under British rule. In Southeast Asia in Saigon, some industrial development occurred as a result of the European and indigenous high caste people, so some cities grew rapidly.
In Umuofia, Okonkwo strongly believed that the white men should be forced out of Umuofia, not everyone in town agreed. European white men built trading stores, brought goods, and money came to the towns and many indigenous people were happy about these changes. Not all of the newcomers were seen as bad. The higher caste who supported the Europeans were rewarded with official positions; they became court messengers, clerks, or school teachers.
Okonkwo’s tribe were very busy with the missionaries church, government, and trading stores. Though his daughters received good marriage proposals and his sons gained titles, Okonkwo spent most of his time very concerned about his people’s acceptance and new ways. He felt they would not be able to resist the Christians and be warriors again.
Okonkwo was not happy with the changes to his society. These examples were mostly positive in the Igbo society but there were also some negative impacts. For example in India, British increased taxes and forced poor people to lose their land or pay rent to new owners who took over with the new laws. During the era of colonial and imperial rule, when the French controlled Vietnam, only 3,000 out of 23.000 villages in the country were allowed to have a public school. They believed “one coolie less, but one rebel more.” This meant that if they educated the Vietnamese and did not provide more high level jobs, there would be rebellion. In Saigon, even though the middle class grew as a result of the growing population, the people who made the most money were the colonists who controlled the banks and major factories, and trade. In Umuofia, Okonkwo believed that getting rid of white men would be easy.
Obierika, Okonkwo’s good friend, said the opposite.“He [the white men] has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” One man in the village was hanged by white men because he killed the man who tried to take land. He tried to run away but got hanged. Protecting your own land is a natural right of indigenous people, it was sad however, that the colonists believed it was their natural right to take the land away from them.
Families and leaders of these indigenous societies lost their social ranking as this was defined by the land they owned. In examining culture, tradition, religion, and social ranking and how they are represented in Things Fall Apart, there are a lot of similarities between the book and colonial takeover in Igbo history. The Cornell notes detail the history of colonialism and imperialism in South African countries, India, and Southeast Asia. In the World History textbook, from chapter 20, there is evidence to support the impact of direct and indirect rule by Europeans and British colonists.
Chinua Achebe successfully told a story that was much like the history books. He told the story of Okonkwo, a powerful man whose whole life changed after the colonists came. This was very important because most of the texts written about the Igbo tribe were written by colonists, and did not give the perspective of the indigenous people who were negatively impacted by imperialism. In all the research for this essay, Achebe is honored as a man who wrote a very powerful, realistic historical novel about the Igbo society.
They wanted a peaceful solution to conflict and did not want violence. In Things Fall Apart, Uchendu tells everyone do not kill the white man, it is foolish, but just the same bad things happened. The villagers of Abame did not even know what the man’s intentions were. Achebe’s book describes the intentions of the Europeans and knew the outcome was far from peaceful.
This book was really interesting because this particular genre made it much easier to understand the important concepts. This book relates to the studies that we are learning. Studying about colonialism in Southeast Asia, India, South African societies, and Umuofia helped to understand the impact of imperialism in different indigenous societies.
The Cornell notes and the imperialism project focus on key events that happened during the imperialistic period and how it impacted the society. As a student, comprehension skills, gathering ideas and making connections, structuring an essay, and researching evidence were really important in this project. This book is good for a reader who enjoys historical fiction and the ideas of imperialism. It describes in detail many accurate historical facts and the outcome of imperialism on the Igbo tribe.