Things Fall Apart: A Biblical Journey in African Literature
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.
“Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements.” Achebe, Chinua. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre” Yeats, W.B..
What, you may ask yourself, do these three quotes have in common? They are each the first line, or sentence, of three very closely linked stories. Everything shines with God’s Glory, as does the tale of Okonkwo. The African historical fiction novel by Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, contains underlying Biblical themes from both The Bible and Irish poem The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats.
That such novel mirrors events in the life, and return, of Jesus Christ; as exemplified by the Last Supper, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and disownment by Peter, and the poem The Second Coming. The Last Supper: “And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'” Luke 22:19-20. Okonkwo’s last meal in Mbanta, at the end of his exile, near perfectly mirrors the Last Supper of Christ.
Jesus shares the sacred and symbolic meal with his disciples before his suffering and Crucifixion, Okonkwo’s shares a meal with his motherland kinsmen to show his appreciation of them, before returning to Umuofia; in this case, Okonkwo identifies with and as Jesus. Before Okonkwo’s feast started, he rose to tell the crowd, “‘It is not to pay you back for all you did for me in the seven years. …
I have only called you together because it is good for kinsmen to meet'” (Achebe, 166). As Okonkwo is to Christ, his return to Umuofia is as the latter’s three day stay in Hell and long awaited return to the Father. Just as betrayal and disownment plagued Jesus’ life, it did the same to Okonkwo: a victim of betrayal and disowner of said betrayer. Judas agrees to betray Jesus: “Then on of the Twelve-the one called Judas Iscariot-went to the chief priests and asked ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched fir an opportunity to hand him over.
” Matthew 26:14-16. Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, betrays his father by joining the Christian faith and abandoning the Ibo tribe. “But there was a young lad who had been captivated. His name was Nwoye, Okonkwo’s first son” (Achebe, 147). This displeased Okonkwo greatly.
So greatly, in fact, that his disowned his own son, his first son, right out of the family. ” How could he have begotten a woman for a son?” (Achebe, 153). This is just like when Peter disowned Jesus at his Crucifixion; in this case, though, Nwoye takes on the role of Jesus Christ. “But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said.’ Matthew 26:70.
“He denied it again with an oath: ‘I don;t know the man!'” Mathew 26:72. This instance, though, is not a mirror to Okonkwo’s disownment of Nwoye. Okonkwo disowns his son out of shame of the latter’s joining of the Christians, Peter disowned Jesus out of fear of torment by the Roman guards; for Peter still reserved reliance to Christ in his heart. The last journey in Christ’s existence is the Second Resurrection on Judgment Day, which can be exemplified by an intrusion upon the Ibo tribe. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.
//Surely some revelation is at hand; / Surely the Second Coming is at hand. / The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out / When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi / Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand; / A shape with lion body and the head of a man, / A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, / Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it / Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds. // The darkness drops again but now I know / That twenty centuries of stony sleep / Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, / And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” (Yeats, William B., The Second Coming). That poem is exactly what Things Fall Apart is based upon.
The Second Coming is themed on; “‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.'” Revelations 22:7. The Second Resurrection of Jesus is reiterated in the novel with Englishmen invading the Ibo tribe and attempting to evangelize the villagers, akin to Judgment Day and Christ accepting or denying people into His Kingdom. “He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment. .
.. But good men who worshiped the true God lived forever in His happy Kingdom. ‘We have been sent to you by this great God to ask you to leave your wicked ways and false gods and turn to Him so that you may be saved when you die,’ he said” (Achebe, 145). As iterated through Biblical, literate, and rhetorical means, Things Fall Apart most definitely withholds Biblical references.
The African historical fiction novel by Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, contains underlying Biblical themes from both The Bible and Irish poem The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats. That such novel mirrors events in the life, and return, of Jesus Christ; as exemplified by the Last Supper, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and disownment by Peter, and the poem The Second Coming. Then again, everything withholds God’s Glory and shines brighter than the sun.