In his article "Achebe, Conrad, and the Postcolonial Strain" Eric Sipyinyu Njeng presents an analysis of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart in a context of postcolonial thought and argues that while Achebe's text is often placed against Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as a counter discourse -- thus interrogating Conrad's portraiture of Africans as savages -- Achebe's text in fact represents anti-Africanism and subservience to Occidental values. Examining Achebe's authorial intention in Things Fall Apart, especially as epitomised in the character of Okwokwo, the protagonist, Njeng argues that Achebe corroborates Conrad's portrait of the African. In writing Things Fall Apart, Achebe falls under the "postcolonial writer's strain" resisting and at the same time seduced by Occidental ideology. In his novel, Achebe tries to veil his desire for the Occident by presenting Okwonkwo initially as a prominent character only to fulfil this desire in the course of the narrative by decentring the protagonist. Achebe's characterisation is centrifugal, that is, he constructs the events of the story to unfold such that Okwonkwo is systematically removed from the centre. This decentring of the protagonist diminishes him as well as the African values he is supposed to represent. This centrifugal aesthetics of constructing events resulting in the protagonist removed from the centre, satisfied Achebe's intention of supplanting African values with Western values. Removing the protagonist from the centre of events creates space for the antagonist to take root, supplanting African religion and culture with Western ideology and hegemony. Njeng postulates that Things Fall Apart appeals to Occidental audiences because Achebe concedes them the place they have always thrived for and thus the novel continues to reverberate in Western discourse.
Njeng, Eric Sipyinyu
"Achebe, Conrad, and the Postcolonial Strain."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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