Okonkwo, of the Igbo tribe, is a great warrior. He is revered for his strength and status in many villages around Umofia. Okonkwo has had to build his reputation and character without much help from his father Unoka. Unoka was a farmer with the soul of a musician. He was good at the flute but could not grow a luxuriant crop. His family remained poor because of his half hearted attempts at farming. Okonkwo has had a tough youth, fending for his parents and siblings. He is tough, unlike his father, and abhors weakness. Hence he rules his family of three wives and eleven children with an iron hand and will not allow any show of soft emotions for them. Nwoye, his eldest son, is therefore a cause of grave concern for Okonkwo. Nwoye is a sentimental young man with a liking for the softer side of things. Okonkwo respects the customs and traditions of his tribe greatly and will not tolerate any desecration of them. He himself atones of any such violation with the toughest self punishment and goes on a seven year exile when he accidentally kills a fellow tribesman. For Okonkwo, therefore, to see his village vandalized by white men is very distressing. He has to summon all his physical prowess and will power to fight such a strong enemy.
I have read a couple of books by African authors. The theme of foreign invasion destroying the native culture and identity seems to be a very poignant topic amongst these authors. Ben Okri’s The Famished Road also talks about the same thing.
The language used by Achebe is very straightforward and plain. This style is in keeping with the spirit of the tribes in the novel- direct and without pretension.<BR> Two thirds of the book describes the rituals and customs of the Igbo tribe through the life of Okonkwo. The last third of the book describes the change that Christian missionaries and English invaders bring to the tribe.
Much of the African population has been primitive till a very long time. Education and progress have been very slow to reach Africa. And it is very unfortunate that Africa mostly, has had to sacrifice its own identity and culture in order to imbibe social progress and scientific awareness. As an Indian, whose forefathers have experienced 200 years of British rule, I can empathize with this loss of Africa. For, this phenomenon of mindless aping of the advanced West is still prevalent in India. After all, what can you say about a nation that has surrendered the two dearest words in their vocabulary to a foreign language- an urban Indian child today is not taught to call his parents the native ‘Mata’ and ‘Pita’ but ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ after the West!
Book Reviewed by Ashmita Saha
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