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Portrayal and Criticism of Culture and Societal Institutions in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Victor S. Alumona


Chinua Achebe's famous novel, Things Fall Apart (TFA), is an extended reductio ad absurdum predicated on a premise derived from an ironic twist on the name of the novel's dominant clan called Umuofia. In short, the argument is that this is Umuofia, whose socio-political and economic institutions are so well developed that they can compare favorably with those of any other societies in the same epoch and level of development, anywhere in the world. Thus, Achebe concludes, any society so well developed and organized like that of his people cannot be legitimately called Umuofia. From this perspective, this paper argues, contra the traditional interpreters of TFA, that the novel is neither a portraiture of the ideal Igboman as seen in Okonkwo, nor is Achebe in the novel concerned mainly with the obsession with power and its repercussions among his people even before, or at the inception of colonialism.  Rather, the novel is an indigenous portrayal and criticism of the culture and institutions of a denigrated people with a view to highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses, and without any tinge of apology at all. I intend to show subsequently that Achebe achieves this by building an argument and persuasive rhetoric around the lives and careers of some dominant individuals and the operations or failures of societal institutions; for instance, the family, government, morality, law and order, diplomacy etc.

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Journal on African Philosophy. ISSN: 1533-1067 (online).
Editor: Olufemi Taiwo.

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