Professor Nick Mount Q.18
November 16 2012
Why does Things Fall Apart end with the perspective of the District
Commissioner? How does this conclusion affect the novel as a whole?
The novel ends with the perspective of the District Commissioner in order to
convey to the reader the racist and inhuman nature of colonialism. This conclusion affects
the novel as a whole because it trivializes the struggles of Okonkwo, his village and the
entire cultural heritage of Africa.
The concluding paragraphs inAchebe’s novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’, display the
racism and bigotry of the western colonialists. This is made clear through several
instances in the final chapter of the novel. “The story of this man who had killed a
messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading. One could almost write a
whole chapter on him. Perhaps not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any
rate.” (Achebe 208-209). The commissioner intends to write a book documenting the Ibo
culture. He is unaware, and likely uninterested in knowing the full story of Okonkwo’s
life. “one must be firm in cutting out the details.” (Achebe 209) Okonkwo had just
realized that his tribe was doomed because of their weakness. He decided to take his own 2
life as a result of a lifelong struggle to help his clan by being a strong and hardworking
man, in an attempt to distance himself from his weak and unsuccessful father’s
reputation. The point I am making here is that Okonkwo’s tragic life story is a rather
complex and heartfelt one.Achebe spends 24 chapters developing Okonkwo’s character
only to have some white colonialist sum up his troubled life in a “reasonable paragraph”.
This shows the Commissioner’s racist attitude towardAfrican people. In his mind,
African people are savages and less human than whites. He does not respect them as he
would his own people. Therefore, their lives are trivialized and condensed into short
summaries in his book.
‘The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger’ (Achebe – 209) is to
be the title of The District Commissioner’s book. The rather drawn-out and humdrum
title, perhaps hints at the dull and pragmatic ideology of the western conqueror.
“Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger” seems tacked on to the beginning part of the title,
as though it is one of many similar occurrences. It highlights the fact that “pacifying
tribes” seems to be an ordinary occurrence in the life of a crusader of the western empire.
The title is also heavily ironic. The use of the word “Pacification” showcases the
Commissioner’s close-minded view that he believes he is bringing peace and stability
into the Igbo culture when in fact his presence brings just the opposite to the humble
African village. He and his colonialist cohorts are the source of the Clan’s misery.Adding
to the irony is the fact that the Commissioner considers the tribes to be “primitive”. While
from a technological standpoint this may be true, the colonialist fails to realize that
forcibly conquering other countries through aggression is what is truly primitive and 3
animalistic. Furthermore, by referring to the “Tribes of the Lower Niger”, the
Commissioner has grouped together many neighboring clans with distinct customs and
traditions into one group. These points all provide further evidence for my argument.
The District Commissioner comes up with this title for his book after “much
thought”. (Achebe – 209). From the speaker’s perspective he is suggesting that the reader
should sympathize, or at least understand that it took a great deal of effort to arrive at
such a title.Achebe clever