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  William Krier Professor David Stubblefield English 2120 7 November 2014 Africa towards Balance The African continent and its European colonization was much a mystery to the rest of Western civilization during the colonial era. For a while, by virtue of unbalanced power, the only representation of it was of European perspective; famously Joseph Conrad’s novella  Heart of  Darkness . But when Africa was freed in the postcolonial era of the twentieth century, transfer of  power was evident, and the multi-cultured Chinua Achebe masterfully made sure of it with his world-renowned novel Things Fall Apart  . With the emergence of the African voice in English, the African perspective of the colonial ordeal reanimated the conversation on the true nature of their culture. From this sequence, one can see how the presence of an imbalance in power, whether physical or social, forms inhomogeneous realities, thus sexism, racism, elitism,  prejudice, etc. The following discussion will explain and assess how the misunderstandings on how to distribute, control, and manifest forms of power criticize the two aforementioned cultures  provided by the works of Conrad and Achebe and how such literary action can transform society. In both  Heart of Darkness  and Things Fall Apart  , a form of masculinity prevails in the  plots. Domestic violence, purchased marriages, and vulgar language and be found throughout Achebe’s story. For example, the female ochu  that Okonkwo, the main protagonist figure, committed was known as an accidental, careless, clumsy manslaughter. (Damrosch: Achebe 2746) Achebe made sure to criticize such prejudice in his representation of his culture by including it at a seemingly exaggerated margin. And in the excursions of Conrad’s story, no  women are present to contribute to the mission. It is said that at that time they live in their own world away from the darkness and won’t get involved , and are used by the men to display their success and status. (Damrosch: Conrad) Masculine dominance is not uncommon in several cultures, and can prove to be a cause of undistributed power and a source of disharmony in society. Yet, interestingly, Achebe includes Igbo anecdotes mentioning how “Mother is Supreme,” as well as stating how women see each other a s equals, whereas the men quarrel for  power positions. (Damrosch: Achebe 2748) Therefore, the importance here is that feminism  provides nurture and a ground for comfort, while representing the value of equality necessary to achieve such security; a security the Igbo people don’t have because of indecision and a security the European colonists don’ t have because of obsession, both causes are conditions of inequality that will be explained later. Although sexism was one of these said conditions in the literature, it was by far not the major prejudice involved. In  Heart of Darkness  the whites had physical control and power over the Africans, in the form of slavery, with the goal in mind to civilize these people from what they called savagery. This got to a point where many argue, including Achebe, the novel displays racism. (Achebe) The European powers competed to divide up the continent into countries attempting to order the “brutes” under monarchs  (Damrosch: Conrad). However, unawareness in African culture sent this system into chaos. As seen in Things Fall Apart  , Achebe depicts Africa of many tight, smaller cultures centered on villages. Plus, Achebe portrays African as respectful between cultural members, not as brutes. So, it is very well that the Africans were ordering themselves quite fine before the intrusion. This makes it clear that the European attempt to force social control introduced internal stresses within the individual African communities. Achebe describes how the detached members of the society, when converted to Christianity by the missionaries,  conflicted with the ancient value of kin (a value of equality given by women) and ancestry (a value of wisdom given by men) causing huge distress among the tribal leaders whom themselves had their own indecisive solutions (Damrosch: Achebe). Next, this brings up the question of how a control of power is manifested within cultures. The condition of indecisiveness over cultural maintenance control for the Africans and the condition of control over obsession for progress for the Europeans will be discussed; each symbolized by a major character in the novels of topic. There are two characters of great interest concerning power; both may be considered elitist in their respected cultures. In Things Fall Apart  , Okonkwo, a strong warrior leader whose  power is achieved through masculinity, is depicted to have questionable control, or use, of his status. It takes three instances, violence during festive ceremony, killing of adopted son, and a female ochu , to finally exile him. He becomes confused with his sadness and doesn’t understand his attacking consciousness, and this “mosquito never died.” ( Damrosch: Achebe) His biological son ’ s conversion finally set him off to a murder spree of white officers and to his suicide, the novel’s symbolism of Umuofia’s loss of hope to defeat the indecision and distr  ess of tradition versus new idea; Okonkwo wasn’t known for being patient. In  Heart of Darkness , Kurtz, the top agent of the Belgian Company who was idealized upon for his genius and leadership qualities, is depicted by Conrad to have obsessive power. He takes extra ivory for his personal profit, he gets the natives to worship him as a god, and he taunts his power via gruesome displays. It was expressed that he was srcinally the embodiment of European values, such as progression, yet  became the assault of them once the jungle made him go mad and can’t stop himself from ceasing more power. (Damrosch: Conrad ) The manifestations of these characters’ power definitely showed to be imbalanced elitism. And as seen, imbalance is the source of the darkness caused by perspective in which the result is things falling apart. However, like what Achebe did,  the written word, especially in a well-known language, can resonate worldwide to achieve a  better balanced understanding. The publication of Things Fall Apart   put Africa in a spot to regain its independence from unbalanced perspective. It wasn’t a war, revolution, or   politics, but literature. From this, African leaders are beginning to take an understanding of their duty to rectify Africa . And it’s not just Africa either, Koreans resonate fondly with what the Africans went through because their national story involves the invasion of the Japanese. As described, maybe it takes a revolutionary novel or story to kick start revolutionary politics. (Bacon) Using the same themes described in the previous discussions one will see how literature can evoke social or political change. When  power is distributed unfairly, like a tyranny or monarch, lifestyle is dictated unfairly. The small mention of how the Africans fall apart from forced monarch states may bring to attention a nation of readers seeking equality. Or, the control of power given to the people versus the elites, like the Africans who wish to convert over the guidance of their tribal elders whom deserve influence according to traditional culture, may alert a group of readers to take action for themselves or stay loyal to tradition. In that respect, reading how Umuofia struggled to decide over tradition or neocolonialism and how the following of the progress obsessed Kurtz portrayed darkness may cause readers to realize that reality is a life of decisions not self-imposed cultural or societal prisons. Literature can enlighten one of many realities and can free you of the imprisonment of a single burdening one. Such realization provides a balance of perspective and thus a better understanding on how to treat humanity. Without literary variety there is biased perspective and uncertainty of truth and thus darkness lurks. Those conditions will cause events similar to what occurs with colonialism: misunderstanding, racism, slavery, greed, obsession, indecisiveness, elitism, inequality, and the
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