An Examination Of Cultural Tales

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An Examination of Cultural Tales

An Examination of Cultural Tales

Thesis Statement

Stories from Africa were traditionally passed down by word of mouth. Often they were told by the light of the moon around a village fire after the completion of a long day of work.


Achebe uses many of the folktales and proverbs that are common to the Ibo people along with some common mythology that exists in all cultures (such as the proverbs about the silence of night). The mythology/proverbs/folktales in which Achebe chooses to incorporate to the story is provided for the specific purpose of adding depth and reasoning to the decisions of all the characters that are part of the Ibo culture.


What is seen in the beginning, in the "true" Ibo, is a sophisticated culture that is not barbaric when seen in light of its own customs and not of those of Europe. The way that the first section of the novel can be seen as a response to the depictions of Africans in Western literature, is that in Western literature Africans are seen as barbaric savages with no rules on their behavior - Things Fall Apart shows that Africans are completely different than that depiction.

The Drum in Discourse

Contact situations that result in subjugation and marginalization often lead to diverse speech communities that share geographical space but represent different language ideologies. Depending on the relationship of the groups, the ideology of those in power can range from denigrating the other's language and speech and claiming it to be incomprehensible, to regulating the nature of the speech. Because discourse and other behaviors are closely monitored in total institutions such as plantation slavery, they often lead to ant societies and underground institutions where people resist subjugation. However, ant societies are not solely underground institutions. They are responses to control from those with power and are only underground in the sense that disempowered or marginalized groups rely on and participate in them. Consequently, from the perspective of the nondominant group, they are very much above-the-ground and a significant aspect of everyday speech. These underground institutions allow people a form of agency found in face-to-face encounters so that they can construct a system of communication that incorporates a positive sense of social face.

Thus, while slavery and Jim Crow demanded that those of African descent portray the "attitude" of someone who should be oppressed, there was also a system of indirect discourse that could reinterpret the enforced discourse. African-American culture and antisociety contested the values, attitudes and beliefs that the dominant society held toward them through the use of African systems of indirectness they had at their disposal. Indirectness occurs when cultural actors recognize talk as symbolic of ideas, values and occurrences that are not directly related to the present context. Ibo people were concerned about were the mundane acts that make up any culture. The "big picture" for any of the members of the Ibo culture was not how they would survive or change their culture, but how they could increase their own prestige ...
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