I really appreciated the lecture today on Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. Comparing how Heart of Darkness are so different in their approach really struck me. When I read Heart of Darkness, I had the feeling of being on a National Geographic safari. The developed characters were the foreigners, and the Africans were treated as just another part of nature. In fact, even though some compassion is felt by Marlowe for the treatment of the native people, I found that the book made me feel almost more compassion for the elephants who were being killed for their tusks. The book really emphasized the notion of reciprocity that Beauvoir talks about in talking about ‘self’ and ‘other’. The European way is what is the ‘norm’ and the ‘subject’, while, even though they are the foreigners in Africa, the natives are treated as the ‘other’.
Anyway, in contrast to last week’s book, the African characters were not just a backdrop as the reader sails through a river safari. This time, they are dynamic and vivid and flawed even! I think that Okonkwo’s character flaws is what makes him so deeply human. As the white people interact with the tribe, I feel like I am an Ibo more than the ‘European norm’. I resent them too, and I mourn for the seemingly drear future of their culture.
In lecture there was a bit of conversation around Yeats’ Second Coming being referenced, and it made me think about human origins. When Yeats is talking about the ‘centre [that] cannot hold’, I’m not sure what exactly he is referring to, but I would assume that he is talking about worldwide chaos and calamity. In relation to the text that we read this week, it made me think about Africa being the centre, the origins of human conception. I think about the Ibo and their struggle to hold onto themselves. What good does Imperialism really do? I think about the cost of colonialism and the numerous people groups that are forced to conform to a mould of ‘white civilization’, and I wonder if the book is trying to show how upside down the situation really is. “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” because of the people who seem to think they have all the answers. Africa, the heartbeat of the world, is being pillaged and torn apart like it’s suffering a heart attack, at the hands of those who come in the name of prosperity, civilization and Providence.
Hope that wasn’t TOO hard to follow, but I have been trying to form a coherent train of thought over this lecture and this is what came of it :$