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The Perception of African Culture

The driving force behind this first part is to look inward and investigate how the African perception of social reality has contributed and reinforced the continent's perennial condition of ignorance, poverty and backwardness. Africa is dominated by metaphysical worldview which is society that is permeated by perceptions and belief systems that encourage superstition, magic, animism, cosmetology and theology.

This means that the general perceptions and ideas of Africans are those of these ages. Okonkwo values tradition so highly that he cannot accept change, thus the high cost he has paid to uphold it, killing Ikemefuna and moving to Mbanta. The Christian teachings render these large sacrifices on his part meaningless. The distress over the loss of tradition, whether driven by his love of the tradition or the meaning of his sacrifices to it, can be seen as the main reasons for his suicide.

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The metaphysical interpretation of reality makes Africans less sympathetic and receptive to new ideas. The metaphysical is anti-science worldview; it breeds and cultivates uncritical, unquestioning, irrational and other attendant cultural traits that hinder the development and application of scientific knowledge. As a result of its superstitious and unscientific nature, the metaphysical interpretation of reality has made Africans less sympathetic and receptive to new ideas. It breeds the inertia to change in the African mentality. An example from this book is when Okonkwo and other tribal leaders try to reclaim their hold on their native land by destroying a local Christian church that has insulted their gods and religion.

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The other manifestation of the perception of African culture is the constant struggles evident between the genders, class, commodification as well as identity. Some divergences will ever be static among women as well as men in the cultures of Africans attributed to the African culture and the way that the Africans has been brought up to behave to each other.

It is also deterministic in outlook in the sense that man becomes timid, weak and helpless in his interaction with his fellow man, societal, problems, institutions and most especially his nature. The prevailing worldview of any society is the fundamental determinant of how meaningfully the society will relate with itself and its environment. No society can advance beyond the limits of the dominant perception of social reality

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Basically, it is the worldview of a people, that is, the way they think of themselves, their problems, others and their material environment, that fundamentally determine their level of scientific, technological and industrial progress. What this means is that there are certain cultural traits, attitudes and belief system that could encourage the growth of science and equally too, there are those that could act as disincentives to scientific advancement.

Achebe depicts the Igbo as a people with great social institutions in accordance with their particular society, for example, wrestling, human sacrifice and suicide. Their culture is heavy in traditions and laws that focus on justice and fairness. The people are ruled not by a king or chief but by a kind of democracy, where the males meet and make decisions by consensus. Industrial Western societies belong to this kind of a society characterized by scientific traits of rational, logical, inquisitive, and analytical who often talk of bringing democratic institutions to the rest of the world, that upset this system. Achebe emphasizes that high rank is attainable for all freeborn Igbo men he attained his through fighting as opposed to reading or ploughing the land and growing herbal remedies, vegetation, rearing cattle, fowl.

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Achebe also depicts the injustices of Igbo society. No more or less than Victorian England of the same era, the Igbo are a patriarchal society. They also fear twins, who are to be abandoned immediately after birth and left to die of exposure. He attempts to repair some of the damage done by earlier European depictions of Africans. But this recuperation must necessarily come in the form of memory; by the time Achebe was born, the coming of the white man had already destroyed many aspects of indigenous culture and destructive belief patterns.

Mr. Brown institutes a policy of compromise, understanding, and non-aggression between his flock and the clan. He even becomes friends with prominent clansmen and builds a school and a hospital in Umuofia. Unlike Reverend Smith, he attempts to appeal respectfully to the Igbo value system rather than harshly impose his religion on it. Akunna and Mr. Brown discuss their religious beliefs peacefully, and Akunna's influence on the missionary advances Mr. Brown's strategy for converting the largest number of clansmen by working with, rather than against, their belief system. In so doing, however, Akunna formulates an articulate and rational defense of his religious system and draws some striking parallels between his style of worship and that of the Christian missionaries.

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Change is continual, and flexibility is necessary for successful adaptation. Because Okonkwo cannot accept the change the Christians bring, being a rigid individual, unable to change with the times or to criticize his or her own beliefs, is liable to be tragically swept aside by history. Although Achebe favors the African culture of the pre-western society, the author attributes its destruction to the "weaknesses within the native structure." Achebe portrays the culture as having "a religion, a government, a system of money, and an artistic tradition, as well as a judicial system. The missionaries' arrival begins the downfall of traditional Igbo society. This downfall destroys the Igbo way of life, leading to the death of Okonkwo, who was once a hero of the village. Okonkwo is a classic tragic hero, even if the story is set in more modern times. He shows multiple hamartia, including pride and rashness, and these character traits do lead to his peripeteia, or reversal of fortune, and his downfall at the end of the novel

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He is distressed by social changes brought by white men, because he has worked so hard to move up in the traditional society. This position is at risk due to the arrival of a new values system. Those who commit suicide lose their place in the ancestor-worshipping traditional society, to the extent that they may not even be touched to give a proper burial. The irony is that Okonkwo completely loses his standing in both value systems. Okonkwo truly has good intentions, but his need to feel in control and his fear that other men will sense weakness in him drive him to make decisions, whether consciously or subconsciously, that he regrets as he progresses through his life

Beatrice Nwanyibuife as an independent woman in the city, Beatrice strives for the balance that Okonkwo lacked so severely. She refutes the notion that she needs a man this has remained the same to current women in Africa society where more modern women are getting empowered. She slowly learns about Idemili, a goddess balancing the aggression of male power. Although the final stages of the novel show her functioning in a nurturing mother-type role, Beatrice remains firm in her conviction that women should not be limited to such capacities.

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