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Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart is an African novel written by Chinua Achebe that depicts the life of a protagonist, Okonkwo during his hey days as a great wrestler and wealthy man with a great reputation in the village of Umuofia and beyond and also during his down fall with the advent of the missionaries and colonialism in Nigeria. The district commissioner is a character in this novel. He is a white man who came together with the other whites, disguised as missionaries to try to take over the village of Umuofia, and do away with the African traditions (Achebe  Ch.23).

Okonkwo returns to the village from exile where he had gone for seven years after murdering a member of his tribe, only to find that everything in his beloved village has changed. There are white missionaries everywhere who are building churches all over and converting people to Christianity. His own son, Nwoye is already convicted to Christianity, and this severs all ties between him and his father. In a bid to reclaim and preserve their traditions, Okonkwo tries to bring together the other old men of the village, but it’s all in vain as Okonkwo faces a humiliating and disastrous ending. This prompts the district commissioner to write a book about the ‘primitiveness’ of these Africans.

Pacifying the Primitive Clans

At the end of the novel, the district commissioner intends to write a book, which he shall name The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger (Achebe Ch.25). In his own view, these Africans are still very primeval with archaic ideologies and a rigidity that makes them resist the modern change that the whites bring to their village. According to the district commissioner, the people of the village of Umuofia are still living in the medieval era, and it is his goal to enlighten them and bring them together.

Hypothetical synopsis of the novel

From the title of the novel that the district commissioner intends to write, it is evident that he wants to point out all the key points and agendas he thinks are primitive in his own opinion. Okonkwo, the protagonist in this novel, is undoubtedly one of the main characters who will feature prominently in this novel. The district commissioner tries in vain to reason with Okonkwo. Okonkwo is determined to repel everything that the white man represents. According to the district commissioner, the values and beliefs and the way of government that the Whiteman is bringing to these Africans is reflected to be superior to the Africans’. He fails to understand why these Africans are resisting these new and modern changes.

The basis of the novel

The district commissioner will base his new novel on the occurrences in Niger and particularly in the village of Umuofia where he is stationed. When Okonkwo comes from exile to find that the white man has already rooted in the village, he goes into the frenzy and tries to reunite his fellow elders, who partially are reluctant to join him in his crusades to save the village.

Their relationship with the authorities turns sour after they are tricked and held hostage in the district commissioner’s station. Achebe states that things start turning for worse after Okonkwo rallies his tribesmen to burn down a Christian shrine (Ch.23). This act does not go down well with the white man’s authority and soon later, when Okonkwo and his tribes men hold a meeting to discuss how they would chase the white man from their land and restore their traditions, a white man is sent to plead with the men and make them envision the sense of knowledge and skills the white man was impacting into them. Okonkwo kills the white man, and all hell breaks loose for him. Even Okonkwo, in his primitiveness, understands that he has made a huge mistake and his fellow tribesmen desert him fearing the wrath and power of the white man. Okonkwo commits suicide, eventually, shattering his great reputation. Other avenues of primitiveness as shall be addressed in the new novel include the reluctance to convert to Christianity and the unwillingness to take the children to school. However, later on, these Africans start slowly, out of curiosity at first, trickle into churches, as well as schools. This is what results into what the district commissioner is referring as the pacification of the primitive tribes of the Lower Niger. According to him, the acceptance of the African to the beliefs, ideologies and the way of the white man means that these African tribes are now consolidated under a superior tradition.

The district commissioner’s view: Misguided belief?

It would not be exactly correct for the district commissioner to label the traditions, beliefs and the way of life of these Africans as primitive. Since the beginning of time, or in the distant past, African tribes have always survived and their way of governance and living has withstood the test of time (Niane Web). African culture in the villages of Nigeria and the continent at large has maintained its edge even with the advent of the white men. So, in this case, the way the district commissioner describes this culture and these tribes is wrong and grossly misguided.


Each tribe or race, white and black among others, have a different kind of cultural set up and beliefs according to their demographical and even ethnical differences. The concept of having a culture being superior to other cultures is subject to a lot of ambiguity. There is no specific criterion used to determine what makes a culture of a specific group of people superior or inferior to others. So, in conclusion, the view that the supposed primitiveness of the tribes of the lower Niger as the district commissioner shall present in his new novel does not correctly reflect or even respect the richness these cultures have to offer.

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