Things Fall Apart

Collision of two cultures

What are the human consequences of the collision between the two cultures? Describe both the social and personal clashes.

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The human consequences between the two cultures in Things Fall Apart affect the Umuofia people's religion, agriculture, judicial system and social life. The Umuofia are polytheistic; their gods include Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves (settles disputes and tells the future) and Chi (personal god, judges work and accomplishment). The Umuofia people are obedient to their gods, will not war without their consent and depend on them to exact punishment. For example, when a daughter of Umuofia is murdered in Mbaino, the gods were consulted and they demanded that land and a Mbaino virgin be paid in retribution. To have bypassed this requirement and gone to war without consent would have meant sure defeat.. However, if the people of Umuofia had not obeyed their gods, and had gone to war that they were told not to go, they would be defeated. The people believed, "if one finger brought oil it soiled the others" (87).

With the arrival of the 'white' man, and the 'white' man's religion and culture comes the collision. The missionaries come to convert the people, they belittle the Umofia's religious traditions and strongly urge them to abandon their gods. This doesn't go over well with the people and conflict arises.

Another source of conflict came in the form of the Umofia economy. These people were farmers and depended on agriculture for their survival. Everyone worked; men, women and children. The planting of crops (yams) was an art form and had specific guidelines set by the history and experience of the people. The missionary's arrival changed the way farming was performed; it took children out of the fields and put them in the classroom; it brought a new form of government, and it brought its own trade. Farmland was devalued, crops were worth less money, and economically the people suffered.

Umofia's social culture was challenged as well. They had existed in a patriarchal society, wives and children stood in submission to the male head of household. Children had respect for their parents and knew that without respect they'd garner certain and specific punishment.

Achievement was also respected. Okonkwo, for example, defeated another wrestler at the age of eighteen and was placed at a higher level. He was young but deserving of the respect he was given.

The Osu were outcasts; dedicated to the gods, forbidden to marry, and required to live near the shrine in their own little village. Osu are delegated to the bottom of the social ladder and not allowed to mix outside of their own. The arrival of the missionaries changed this. No more were the Osu outcasts, they were made the social elite and made wealthy as well.

The clans had been rich until this point but now were poor. The social hierarchy ceased to exist and everyone mixed freely. Children no longer respected their parents; example, Umoye who feared his father before the coming of the white man, disrespected his father after joining the white man's religion. He stopped talking or visiting with his father, and the leaders of the clan were humiliated and put in prison. Once imprisoned, their hair was shaved and their hands were cuffed. "At night the messenger came in to taunt them and to knock their shaved heads together" (138).

These are some of the conflicts within the story and their human consequences. There are many more, but I'm not writing another novel here..... sometimes I just don't know when to quit! :-D


Things Fall Apart

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