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Universal Symbolism in Things Fall Apart Essay

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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a novel written to highlight the intriguing lives and misconceptions that are often identified with African culture. Achebe writes Things Fall Apart from the African view, a foreign perspective that sees westerners as the outsiders and Africans as the insiders. Focusing on a clan in lower Nigeria, Achebe profiles the clash of cultures that erupts when white Christians colonize and spread their religious ideals. Achebe is able to make his book so popular to the entire world because of his expert use of symbols like drums, locusts, and fire. These common symbols in which drums represent the beat of all civilization, locusts represent invasion by an outsider, and fire represents destruction, all aid Things Fall Apart in making it a novel for the ages that applies to all humanity. Achebe accomplished this by frequently using drums, locusts and fire to better outline loss of culture, the white men coming, and the destructive societal ramifications that follow.

Achebe uses the symbol of tribal drums to show the flourishing culture and life that Umuofia experiences before the Europeans arrive. The symbol of drums is often present during cultural gatherings and celebrations in Umuofia. During the feast, which marks a new harvest year, “drums [are] still beating, persistent and unchanging. Their sound [is] no longer a separate thing from the living village” (104). Drums distinctly relate to the culture and traditions of the village. Moreover, the “persistent and unchanging” beat to the drums also reflects the unity of the society, and how the tribe currently operates (104). These traditions are unique to Umuofia and are an integral part of African culture. However, this unchanging and pe...


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... only used by Achebe to further enrich the common theme of clash of opposing cultures, but they also are what make Things Fall Apart a universal human experience that is common to all people. Achebe uses these symbols because all cultures can relate to them: drums are seen as a celebration of culture, locusts are unwanted invaders, and fire is destructive. Things Fall Apart is written from the unique African point of view, and it shows how Europeans have destroyed important parts of African culture. Perhaps Achebe uses universal symbols not only to make it more relevant to all cultures, but also to seek increased humanitarian missions to Africa. Nevertheless, Achebe’s use of figurative language and common elements not only highlight the most profound changes that Umuofia experiences, but it also causes people to question their preconceived notions on society.



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