Chinua Achebe Thesis

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Chinua Achebe: Literary Genius

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Chinua Achebe is perhaps the most notable African author of the twentieth century. His concepts and ideas reveal an aspect of humanity that cannot be ignored. Achebe always writes with an intense purpose and more often than not, this points to his people in Africa. The nature of man, his delicate condition, and his coping mechanism become topics worth study. In Things Fall Apart, we see how change influences a village that was managing fine before the mysterious missionaries arrive. The missionaries, whose intent may be good, spread fear and discontent throughout the village and we see this primarily with the character of Okonkwo. Okonkwo is a man with great pride for his people and cannot bear to see the missionaries slowly take over. In "Civil Peace," Jonathon is a man similar to Okonkwo in that he wants to do the best with what he has. These two men represent the strength and the frailty of the human spirit in that we can see how the spirit can crumble after defeat as shown with Okonkwo and we can see how the human spirit can be lifted up with positive outlook as illustrated with Jonathon. Thee stories form a history with which can comprehend; they develop a perspective to which we can relate. Achebe's poetry also causes us to consider that nature of man and the assumption that knowledge is good for the human soul. These examples provide us with different impressions of man that elevate Achebe to the top of the literary canon because they not only reflect upon humanity but they dare to make a statement. Achebe's insight, profundity, and lucid writing propel him in the greatness he deserves in literature.

TOPIC: Thesis on Chinua Achebe Assignment

Achebe's most celebrated work is Things Fall Apart, a novel set within the aboriginal tribe of Africa. It is one of a few novels that examines this life without contempt. The novel's most prominent issue is associated with change. Change is very rarely welcomed and when it is forced upon people, it becomes much like tyranny. The novel begins in a village that is surviving well in its own world. We're introduced to Okonkwo, the man who is like any other man. Okonkwo and the other villagers have existed in their current state for years and they are progressing as nature deems fit. Change occurs when the missionaries arrive and bring their new religion as well as their interesting characters. The clash of these two cultures is what Achebe chooses to focus on. As we watch these two types of people interact with one another, we begin to see how one is essentially intruding upon the other. The most penetrating aspect of these two cultures existing side by side is how one is seems to be more civilized than the other. Achebe leaves us with this image and leaves us to decide if the assertion is correct. Kenneth McLeish maintains, "What is extraordinary about Okonkwo is not his personality... But the parameters of his existence. Everything he does or says, however bizarre it might seem if considered in isolation, is the product of an uncomplicated, systematic growth" (McLeish). The uncomplicated system is suddenly disrupted and as McLeish observes, shocked from the outside. While it is true that the village is susceptible to outside forces, we must ask if these forces are good for the village. McLeish states that the civilized Christians are a "cancer, and as they thrive they kill their host" (McLeish). We read that when they send missionaries to other villages, we read that it was a "source of great sorrow to the leaders of the clan" (Achebe Things Fall Apart 143). This is indeed true, as see in the life of Okonkwo, who cannot cope with what is happening around him. It is through Okonkwo's experiences, we begin to appreciate humanity.

In "Civil Peace," we have a different type of character with the same sense of pride that Okonkwo possessed. Jonathon is simply pleased that the war is over. After witnessing what war can do, he is glad it is gone. We read that he comes out of the war with "five inestimable blessings - his head, his wife Maria's head and the heads of three out of four of their children" (Achebe Civil Peace 386). He is what we might term an eternal optimist in that he does not waste time worrying about things that have happened in the past or things that he cannot change. In fact, on almost every occasion, he states, "Nothing puzzles God" (386). Jonathon is to be admired because he has survived the war and he is simply happy that he has his wife and children. Rena Korb notes that the story "captures a spirit of optimism" (Korb). Susan Sanderson agrees with this idea and observes that the story also "teaches its readers about survival and about the merits of a never-say-die attitude" (Sanderson). In addition, Jonathon knows how to make the best of things the way they are. Sanderson notes that Jonathon is "not a man who is blind to the great tragedy around him, so whatever he has gives him strength to push on" (Sanderson). With very little material possessions, Jonathon learns to value what is important in life, which is demonstrated in the first paragraph in the story. Jonathon is like Okonkwo is that he is a proud man and he wants to make his life the best that it can be. Jonathon faced the ravages of war while Okonkwo had to deal with the invasion of his village by an unwelcome people. He also had to watch as his beloved community disintegrate before his eyes one convert at a time. It is interesting to note that both men cope with change the best way they know how - it is just showing how different these coping mechanisms are. However, this is the point that Achebe is attempting to make. We, as the collective humanity, deal with things in different ways and Achebe's ability to capture this with these realistic characters is what makes his fiction worthy of reading.

In the poem "Knowing Robs Us," the poet is quick to realize the nature of man. He is confident that knowledge is not always a good thing because it "robs us of wonder" (Achebe Knowing Robs Us 1). Knowledge took from us our wonder about life; the poet comment that it "ripped apart / the fearful robes of primordial Night" (2-3). In addition, reason gives us "assurance that day will break" (8). In observing a flock of birds that are "ecstatic" (18) after a storm, the poet realizes that they, in their unknowing, have more opportunities to sing and be ecstatic because knowledge and reason has not robbed them of the appreciation for the spontaneous beauty that we experience every day. They have the greater advantage because they can enjoy the simplicity of life in the now without knowing that the sun will rise again tomorrow. His view of humanity seems to fall short in comparison to birds. Again, Achebe is asking us to think about our circumstances and consider what is best for us as opposed to what we think might be best for us.

Chinua Achebe should be well respected for his literature. His characters and the circumstances in which they find themselves provide us with ample information to process. The condition of man and how he copes with his ever-changing environment becomes one of Achebe's most significant trademarks. From Okonkwo to Jonathon, we see how mankind is a delicate creature that has incredible endurance. These men must endure extreme circumstances and they must find a way to cope. Okonkwo tries as much as he can to prevent the disintegration of his community. Through the process, he undergoes alienation from the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Chinua Achebe" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Chinua Achebe.  (2009, March 2).  Retrieved September 24, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Chinua Achebe."  2 March 2009.  Web.  24 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Chinua Achebe."  March 2, 2009.  Accessed September 24, 2021.