Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Does Things Fall Apart display magic realism?

As we read Things Fall Apart, I couldn't help but think about the novel we read over the summer, One Hundred Years of Solitude.  In this novel, we learn about true Latin American culture and struggles while also getting to experience the made up magical realism of the Buendia family and their family line and the experiences they go through.  We see a type of magical realism through the Ibo culture displayed in Things Fall Apart.  Much of the things they believe in such as the Earth Goddess, the Oracles, and Egwuwu are elements of magical realism.  Magical realism is where magic and made up elements are blended together with realistic facts from a time period.  Through Things Fall Apart we see the struggles that many African tribes went through during European Colonization of the area.  Achebe blends in the magic of the African's culture and religion with their interactions with the Europeans to really give the story a magical realism feel.  The European's lack care and respect for the African's culture which really led to the downfall of these tribes.

4 comments:

Michell D said...

There are many examples of supernatural aspects of life, however I'm not sure if they are examples of magical realism or just the Igbo being too scared of things they can't explain. I don't necessary believe that any of the odd occurrences in the novel claim to be real, so I don't think it's magical realism. Sometimes I don't understand what Achebe is trying to display with the obanje and Iwi-uwa (ps I don't have my book right now, so I'm not sure) but I think he was adding magical realistic aspects to reality and showing how they can be one of the same, somewhat paying his respects to the legitimacy of Igbo culture.

Linz A said...

I feel like Achebe intended to place us directly in African culture. Rather than have the reader look at Igbo culture as a bystander, he places us directly in the story alongside Okonkwo and therefore, in the beginning, aspects such as the ugwugwu and the gods seem real. All these superstitions come to life for the Igbo because they believe in them. But then the white missionaries come and they don't believe in Igbo culture, so the Igbo superstitions don't affect them (the Evil Forest incident). And, suddenly, as readers, we are disillusioned towards the magical appeal of the Igbo beliefs. The Evil Forest is no longer this all powerful presence - it is just a piece of land. I don't think Achebe uses magical realism, but rather he uses realism based to the people's beliefs.

Laura N said...

Although Things Fall Apart contains supernatural aspects that may be considered “magical” or fantastical from a 21st century American perspective, I believe Achebe used the mystical parts of the Ibo culture and religion solely to provide insight into what they truly believed in. In 100 years of Solitude, Marquez had supernatural things going on that were disconnected from the native’s cultural beliefs for example the unusually long life spans, apparition of spirits, and a stream of blood from Buendia’s wound that travels through the town into his house, etc. Magical realism was used in that book to juxtapose the differing perspectives and world views between the colonizers and the natives, but the magical occurrences were not a part of their religion or culture in real life…they just happened in the novel. In Things Fall Apart, the obanje , chi, oracles and egwugwu are actual beliefs that the natives hold dear; therefore I would not classify the book as magical realism even though it was written after the colonization of Africa, of the colonization of Africa and contains mystical aspects.

Ben Bonner said...

I wouldn't consider it magical realism. All Achebe is doing is portraying Igbo culture. No matter what culture you try to present, you will have to include spiritual and religious facets of that culture to give a complete and accurate representation. While these spiritual elements are all arguably irrational, I don't think that alone constitutes magical realism. If it did, everything from Greek tragedies to Shakespeare would be considered magical realism.