While it is undeniably true that the invading forces of colonization (represented in the novel by the missionaries and the unnamed District Commissioner) are responsible for the destruction to the Ibo way of life, and that the violent interference of Western culture whitewashes and erases numerous aspects of Ibo society toward the end of the novel, it is also true that exclusivist tendencies already extant in Ibo life make the colonization of their culture more readily accomplished. In particular, Achebe points out, characters like Okonkwoâ€”who sees himself as exclusively representational of manhood, success, stature, clout, power, and prestigeâ€”actually threaten their own people by failing to understand the importance of community and cultural cohesion, electing instead to focus on selfish life goals and egocentric principles of action.
For this response, I want you to think about what aspects of Okonkwo’s character are likely to be exploited by the colonial forces, and why. What dimensions of Okonkwo’s behavior seem to you indefensible, wrongheaded, or dangerous in terms of threatening cultural cohesion, and thus make it hard for some Ibo people to want to participate in tribal life? Ogbuefi Ezuedu calls these “bad customs,” and suggests in chapter 4 that they threaten to tear apart the Ibo tribes, but what are these things? What behaviors of Okonkwo’sâ€”his indiscriminate rage, his tendency to insult and demean his fellow tribesmen, his patriarchal mindset and problematic views of gender, his arrogant assumption that because of his status and prestige he doesn’t have to abide by the rules of the clan (even while he’s perfectly happy to unbendingly force others to abide by these selfsame rules), etcâ€”represent potential weaknesses that could be exploited by the colonists later in the novel, and where specifically do we see these things? Think of two or three examples of Okonkwo’s behavior that concern you, and seem like opportunities for western exploitation, and discuss them here.