Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe
CH 4: Literature (Art of Being Human)
CH 11: Morality (Art of Being Human)
In The Art of Bring Human, the writers describe a lawsuit filed by Cree Indians against a state-sponsored boarding school in Canada. One witness explains, “The schools took us from our parents and taught us that the ways of our people were shameful and wrong” (380). She argued that efforts to make natives assimilate into ‘white’ Canada were wrong, that being forced to learn English, adopt Christianity, and acquire suitable job skills led to heavy drinking and domestic disharmony and to the loss of their native tongue” (380).
The Christian boarding school and the government of Canada may have had the positive intention of assimilating Natives so they could participate in the larger society. However, from the point of view of the Cree Indians, forced assimilation was an abuse of power that severely, perhaps irrevocably, damaged the tribe.
Through this example, we can see how the concept of “good” is necessarily tied to a specific point of view. These points of view must be understood also within the context of ethnocentrism, imperialism, capitalism, and racism.
In many ways, the story of Okonkwo and his tribe is similar to the one told by the Cree Indians.
In a 500 word, thesis driven response, answer the following question(not a summary)
Is Okonkwo a “good” man?
Defend your response and offer specific examples and quotes from the novel to support your ideas.
Follow Up Questions:
Here are some follow up questions to get you thinking. The following are meant to be brainstorming tools. You do not need to answer any or all of them in your response.
• What is your standard of “good” or “evil”?
• Based on which of Okonkwo’s behaviors are you making your judgments? Are there counterexamples? Do these affect your original judgment?
• How does the concept of moral relativism affect how you judge Okonkwo?
• How does the concept of cultural relativism affect how you judge Okonkwo?
• How does the context of Imperialism affect how you judge Okonkwo?
• How does the context of racism affect how you judge Okonkwo?
• How is Okonkwo judged by his family and members of the tribe?
• How is he judged by the white missionaries?
• How does the novel, as an art form, shape our abilities to understand Okonkwo and his conflicts?