Chinua Achebe And Joseph Boyden On The Colonialism Process

Colonialism refers to the continual eradication and exploitation of old practices. It often involves settlement in foreign lands, the introduction and enforcement of religious customs, and sometimes the introduction of new cultural practices. Things Fall Apart is Chinua Achebe’s novel that demonstrates how it is impossible to win the power struggle between modernization and tradition. Joseph Boyden uses The Orenda’s French colonization of New France in his novel Things Fall Apart to illustrate how those who reject or accept change are both condemned. Both Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (and Boyden’s The Orenda) have different internal and exterior conflicts, but both use colonialism to orchestrate the demise of each character. Death is inevitable regardless of how you respond to, support, or agree to new cultures.

Things Fall Apart is a documentary that shows colonization in action. The British established the English language and enforced the Christian religion. This settlement causes trouble between Umofia residents and British citizens. The head commissioner confronts clan leaders and explains to them that he brought them here because they had joined forces to molestation, to set fire to people’s homes, and to worship places. You will pay a fine in excess of 200 cowries. ” (Achebe 194). It is evident that there are conflicts between those who want to resist British colonization, and those who favor it. According to the indigenous people, all aspects colonialism is a sin and must be eradicated. The Igbo indigenous spirituality protesters, like the head commission of the newly established Catholic church, believe that the British “have brought this peaceful government [to Umofia] because…it’s the strongest in the whole world” (Achebe 194). The head commissar defends his faith in the face death, not unlike Crow’s character. When challenged by the Umofian tribe, “the head commissioner” is a representative authority figure in his faith. The struggle between religion, spiritual power and religion is fought by the head commissioner. This is however, “ineffective” (Achebe 200). The head commissioner’s stand for colonialism’s imposition of religion is what ultimately causes his death. Boyden’s The Orenda makes use of the French Jesuit missionaries as a way to show the faith and commitment one must have to their religion. The French colonizations of New France are the focal point of this novel. Crow’s refusal of blasphemy during colonialism is the key to his demise. Crow settles in Huron Village, learns Native language, and shares his beliefs with others. He does not have any conflicts with Christianity or himself. Crow’s resistance to all other spiritual practices goes so far that he declares, “I will kill for [God]” (Boyden 28,). Crow may not feel any kind of spiritual conflict, but colonialism is clearly causing conflict between the Jesuit missionaries as well as the Haudenosaunee. Crow resists Native life. Crow is taken hostage and tortured at the hands of the Haudenosaunee, and denied the right to live. Crow rejects the colonial religious element and chooses to deny water being poured on his head at birth. (Boyden 477) Crow is forced to choose to deny the lifestyle and live.

Colonialism not only orchestrates the death for those who oppose religion imposition, but it also causes death to those who resist and succumb to colonialism. Things Fall Apart sees Enoch accept colonialism. He moves into a British settlement, learns English, and converts to Christianity. Enoch is known throughout the novel to be “the outsider that [weeps] more loudly than the bereaved”. Enoch’s devotion to his newfound faith is greater than that of his religious comrades. This novel depicts colonialism as conflict between Umofia …” and the church and their clans (Achebe186). There are two options: to follow the British lifestyle, to join the Christian Church and live in a village with the white man or to continue Igbo’s spiritually-oriented way. “Unmasking an egwugwu publicly or saying or doing anything that could diminish its immortality in the eyes of the unsuspecting” was a crime in Umofian culture. Enoch did exactly this” (Boyden 186) Enoch’s conversion to defiance against the clans ancestral gods is a sign that he has spiritually matured and chosen Christianity. Enoch prays inside while the Egwugwu attack the church as the power struggle among the Christian leaders intensifies. British colonialism forces characters to decide between accepting or resisting the imposition of religion. Enoch’s suicide is due to his refusal to accept old spirituality in favor of the new way.

Delilah’s suicide is due to the fact that she was forced to submit during colonialism. This process, however, causes internal conflict instead of external conflict like Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The Jesuit missionaries to The Orenda remove Native customs in order “bring Jesus into [the Natives’] lives” (Boyden 28,). Crow promises eternal life to converts to Christianity in order to eradicate the spiritual practices of the native people. This sets up a spiritual ultimatum, with one option: continue to live as a Native or convert to Christianity for eternal life. His involvement in colonization is a deviation from Things Fall Apart. This causes internal conflict. Delilah believes that she can “go directly to God” and live in paradise for ever (Boyden 222). However, she fears that she will die alone and be “separated forever from everyone” (Boyden 212). Delilah is forced to accept the Jesuit missionaries’ imposing religion on her and agrees that she will “try and follow the Jesuit missionaries, to live as they say [her] should” (Boyden 212). To be able to live up to this new principle, and receive eternal life, you must be sin-free and follow Christ’s example. It would be best to die in Christ and live until you are able to ascend into heaven. Isaac says that “it’s best to [Delilah] die now”, after having participated in the Lord’s Supper. However, she then “acts as her oki” (Boyden 462) which leads to another sin, which is why he takes it upon himself to poison her. Colonialism sees missionaries removing the idea of okies from Native culture and instilling Christianity. Delilah finds internal conflict when she has to decide whether to believe in a new or traditional religion. Delilah’s decision to accept Christianity and live with it is similar to Enoch’s character from Things Fall Apart.

Achebe, through Okonkwo’s character, Thing Fall Apart, demonstrates how colonialism will kill you no matter how hard you resist it. Okonkwo is very clear about his opinions on British colonization in his address to Umofia elders. He explained that

[The British] claim our customs were bad. Our brothers who have adopted this religion also believe our customs to be bad. How is it possible to fight our brothers who are turning against us? The white man has a lot of intelligence. He accompanied his religion peacefully and quietly. We laughed at his stupidity and let him stay. His brothers have won and our clan no longer acts like one. He has cut off the very things that have held us together. We are no longer united (Achebe176).

The colonialism creates conflict as Boyden illustrates in The Orenda. The British settle and impose religion. Okonkwo refuses change, and Umofia’s submission to colonialism is clearly disgusting. Achebe’s novel demonstrates how one cannot protest the imposition religion on a community. Okonkwo died as a result of the British colonization in Umofia. His suicide is a protest against the colonialism that has led to him leaving.

The Orenda’s colonialism process is not appealing to certain characters, as Okonkwo has shown. As with most of the characters in the novels, their deaths are caused by their refusal to accept change. Jesuit missionaries encourage lifestyle changes like sobriety, celibacy, and other positive aspects of colonialism. Aaron, a new convert, is faced with a conflict within his heart between wanting to adhere to both Christianity’s principles and Iroquois traditions. Aaron’s first offense against Christianity is his infidelity to his wife. Crow informs Aaron that he has been involved in the sexual infidelity of Iroquois children. Crow then makes sure that Aaron is and all those who committed this terrible crime are sent to prison. They will be punished for all eternity by the great voice” (Boyden 333) It is clear that Aaron has chosen not to follow the Christian faith at this point. Aaron refused to quit drinking when he was told (Boyden 364). Aaron’s insatiable need for alcohol indicates that he is unable or unwilling to change his lifestyle. Aaron feels the same way as Delilah about the idea that he should convert to Christianity. Aaron voiced his concerns about the concept by saying that he wanted to be with his family ….Father had told him that he would not be able to see them when he dies. He also said that despite going to a good place, ‘I will be alone without my people’ (Boyden 336). It is a reason to reject the Christian religion because it suggests that we will spend eternity in our afterlife alone. Joseph Boyden’s novel shows that there is no place between resistance and submission to colonialism. Aaron struggles with the impositions of religion in colonialism. Aaron begins to relapse into alcoholism after he has committed sexual offences. It is this colonialism which causes Aaron to be disgusted, rather than Okonkwo’s approach from Things Fall Apart. His final decision to reject Christian life was, in a similar manner, to escape from life and commit suicide.

The Orenda and Things Fall Apart clearly show that colonialism is responsible for each character’s deaths. The head commission supports the imposition and Crow rejects the chance to live. Those who support religion in the context of religion’s processes also die. Boyden, Achebe, and Enoch show that as colonialists, acceptance of change can lead to death. Both Okonkwo who refuses the modernization of his clan and Aaron who refuses the Christianity standards, are killed in resistance to colonialism. Achebe & Boyden show that colonialism does not kill. This conflict, whether internal or external to the old order, will always cause death.


  • seanevans

    Sean Evans is a 29-year-old school teacher and blogger who resides in Utah. Sean is an advocate for education and believes that every child has the right to a quality education. In addition to teaching, Sean also enjoys writing and has a blog where he discusses various topics related to education. Sean is an active member of the community and is always looking for ways to help others.