Chinua Achebe Chinua Achebe Chinua Achebe is said to be “one of the most influential writers” of the century not only in Nigeria, his homeland but also throughout the world (Albany). Chinua Achebe was born in Ogidi, Nigeria on November 16, 1930. He was born a son of a Chrisitan Churchman, Isaiah Okafo and Janet N. Achebe. Achebe was raised an Ibo Christian, which made him stand out among his fellow peers.
Achebe’s lifestyle was different than that of other people living in his village because of his religious background and upbringing. When Achebe was fourteen he began schooling at Government Albany College in Umuahia for three years. He then attended the University of Ibadan from 1948 through 1953. Following his education at the University of Ibandan Achebe earned his Bachelors Degree from London University in 1953. It was a year later when Achebe was named Talk Producer of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service.
Then in 1956 Achebe began to study broadcasting at the British Broadcasting Corporation in London. (Critical Survey of Short Fiction) Finally in 1958, Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart was published. (Albany) Following the completion of his first book, Achebe became the founding editor of Heinemann’s African Writers Series. Since writing his first novel Achebe has won many awards and honors for his publications. Among these awards and honors are the Commonwealth Prize, and the highest award for intellectual achievement in his native country Nigeria.
(Albany) Following the Nigerian civil war, Achebe was named Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria. Presently he lives in Nsukka, Nigeria where he teaches, Achebe also spends a lot of time lecturing at major Universities. Achebe is married to Christie Chinue Okoli and has four children, Chinelo, Ikechukwu, Chidi and Nwando. (Albany) Achebe’s first novel Things Fall Apart is about a village called Umofia in Nigeria and the Ibo people who live there. The main character is a man named Okonkwo.
Okonkwo is a very strong and well known man. Okonkwo is driven by his desire to be a better man than his father was. Okonkwo is ashamed of his father because he was a weak man with no accomplishments. The book describes the village and the traditions of the people of the village. It describes in detail their religious beliefs. All aspects of Ibo life are based on their religion.
The conflict in the story arises when Christian missionaries force their way into the Umofia and began to tear apart the lives of the Ibos. The missionaries try to convert the Ibos into Christians and a western way of living. When some of the Ibos change their lives to be like the missionaries’, civil disagreements and hostility begin to occur. The story is essentially a fictional tale about an event that really did occur in Nigeria. In this story, Achebe is describing the western movement that Nigeria went through and is still dealing with today through fictional characters.
Achebe wrote a follow-up story to Things Fall Apart called No Longer at Ease. No Longer at Ease is about Okonkwo’s grandson, Obi who is part of the “corrupted” generation of the Ibo people. Obi is an educated Christian, who also participates in the traditions of the Ibo people. This has caused him to be torn between the old and new ways of Africa and Nigeria. The new way being educated in a western style and believing in the Christian beliefs.
The old way being completely uneducated and believing in the traditional religion of the Ibo people. Achebe uses Obi as a symbol of the new, western ideals and Okonkwo represents the old, traditional ways of the Ibo people. The two are completely different, which of course causes conflict within the village. Achebe is using this story as a way of informing the reader of what has happened to much of Nigeria with the changes the western world has brought to their villages. What happens in the story is exactly what happened to many Nigerians.
This generation of Nigerians wanted to be educated in the western way, but at the same time wanted to live in their traditional style. This brought conflict and war between families and villages. Critics believe that much of Achebe’s writing flourishes from his richly diverse background. Achebe’s background is very clearly where a large part of his writing comes from. Achebe’s diverse background is that of colonial authority, Christianity, African social customs, and the traditional religion of his village.
As one reads any of his novels all of these things most obviously contribute greatly to the plot of his writings (Syverson). The way in which Achebe uses his personal experiences and background in his writing is displayed in his short story Civil Peace. The story is about a family rebuilding their lives after a war has ended. The family returns to their village only to discover that their meek, little house is still standing strong, but the big, luxurious house, built by a far more affluent man has crumbled to the ground. After explaining this, Achebe writes, “indeed nothing puzzles god”.
This statement not only shows the importance of spiritual life in their culture, but also informs the reader as to what god means to them. When the rich man’s house is destroyed and the less wealthy man’s house remained, it shows god does not care how rich one is or how big one’s house is, everyone is the same in god’s eyes. It is this philosophy these people live by. This story portrays the many characteristics of war and its aftermath. These characteristics are all based around one idea, when war breaks out everyone suddenly hold the same values.
The most important thing suddenly becomes their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. Wealth, possessions and social class no longer matter. This comes out in the story many times, the first being when Achebe writes, “He had come out of the war with five inestimable blessings — his head, his wife Maria’s head and heads of three out of their four children”. Just the fact that they were alive is all that mattered to him. It did not matter whether they had money, a place to live or anything else, just their lives.
These values are made apparent when thieves come to the families’ house demanding that they give them all their money. The father of the family, Jonathan, willingly gives-up all his hard earned money, knowing that if he doesn’t, his family will suffer. The thieves do take the money, but Jonathan does not get angry, he believes in his god and knows that everything will work out as he says once again, ‘nothing puzzles god”. Jonathan buries his bicycle during the war so that nobody will steal it from him Jonathan believes that the bicycle is something he will cherish after the war is over. But when the war is over all he really cares about is his family, and the bike is just an added “bonus”. This just shows once again that what matters to people changes when war breaks out.
Achebe is very skilled at being able to use both the traditional language of his people and the English language. This allows the reader to get a sense of the Ibo culture and still be able to understand and follow the story. The critic Bruce King backs this statement in his introduction to the book, Nigerian Literature by saying, “Achebe was the first writer to successfully transmute the conventions of the novel, a European art form, into African literature”. It is largely this skill that has allowed Achebe to be one of, if not the most influential, writers of this century. Achebe has opened up a whole new realm of literature with his writing, especially in Nigeria. After reading both a novel and a short story by Achebe it is clear what his purpose is when writing.
Achebe is trying to make people understand the African culture the way it really was and the way it is now. Achebe has discovered that many people have a false idea of the African culture and many people have stereotyped Africans and the way in which they live because they do not understand their culture. By writing Achebe hopes to eliminate some of those stereotypes and create an opportunity for people to have a better understanding of Africa and the people who live there. He has accomplished this goal by writing from his own personal experience and using his diverse background as the roots of his knowledge and style of writing. English Essays.