Thursday, November 26, 2015

Things Fall Apart notes

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is probably the most authentic narrative ever written about life in Nigeria at the turn of the twentieth century. Although the novel was first published in 1958 — two years before Nigeria achieved its independence — thousands of copies are still sold every year in the United States alone. Millions of copies have been sold around the world in its many translations. The novel has been adapted for productions on the stage, on the radio, and on television. Teachers in high schools, colleges, and graduate schools use the novel as a textbook in many types of classes — from history and social studies to comparative literature and anthropology.
The novel takes its title from a verse in the poem "The Second Coming" by W. B. Yeats, an Irish poet, essayist, and dramatist:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
In this poem — ironically, a product of European thought — Yeats describes an apocalyptic vision in which the world collapses into anarchy because of an internal flaw in humanity. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe illustrates this vision by showing us what happened in the Igbo society of Nigeria at the time of its colonization by the British. Because of internal weaknesses within the native structure and the divided nature of Igbo society, the community of Umuofia in this novel is unable to withstand the tidal wave of foreign religion, commerce, technology, and government. In "The Second Coming," Yeats evokes the anti-Christ leading an anarchic world to destruction. This ominous tone gradually emerges in Things Fall Apart as an intrusive religious presence and an insensitive government together cause the traditional Umuofian world to fall apart.
Literary Purpose
When Things Fall Apart was first published, Achebe announced that one of his purposes was to present a complex, dynamic society to a Western audience who perceived African society as primitive, simple, and backward. Unless Africans could tell their side of their story, Achebe believed that the African experience would forever be "mistold," even by such well-meaning authors as Joyce Cary in Mister Johnson. Cary worked in Nigeria as a colonial administrator and was sympathetic to the Nigerian people. Yet Achebe feels that Cary, along with other Western writers such as Joseph Conrad, misunderstood Africa. Many European writers have presented the continent as a dark place inhabited by people with impenetrable, primitive minds; Achebe considers this reductionist portrayal of Africa racist. He points to Conrad, who wrote against imperialism but reduced Africans to mysterious, animalistic, and exotic "others." In an interview published in 1994, Achebe explains that his anger about the inaccurate portrayal of African culture by white colonial writers does not imply that students should not read works by Conrad or Cary. On the contrary, Achebe urges students to read such works in order to better understand the racism of the colonial era.
Achebe also kept in mind his own Nigerian people as an audience. In 1964, he stated his goal:
to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement. . . . I would be quite satisfied if my novels . . . did no more than teach my [African] readers that their past — with all its imperfections — was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God's behalf delivered them.
In Things Fall Apart, the Europeans' understanding of Africa is particularly exemplified in two characters: the Reverend James Smith and the unnamed District Commissioner. Mr. Smith sees no need to compromise on unquestionable religious doctrine or practices, even during their introduction to a society very different from his own. He simply does not recognize any benefit for allowing the Nigerians to retain elements of their heritage. The District Commissioner, on the other hand, prides himself on being a student of primitive customs and sees himself as a benevolent leader who has only the best intentions for pacifying the primitive tribes and bringing them into the modern era. Both men would express surprise if anyone suggested to them that their European values may not be entirely appropriate for these societies. The Commissioner's plan for briefly treating the story of Okonkwo illustrates the inclination toward Western simplification and essentialization of African culture.
To counter this inclination, Achebe brings to life an African culture with a religion, a government, a system of money, and an artistic tradition, as well as a judicial system. While technologically unsophisticated, the Igbo culture is revealed to the reader as remarkably complex. Furthermore,Things Fall Apart ironically reverses the style of novels by such writers as Conrad and Cary, who created flat and stereotypical African characters. Instead, Achebe stereotypes the white colonialists as rigid, most with imperialistic intentions, whereas the Igbos are highly individual, many of them open to new ideas.
But readers should note that Achebe is not presenting Igbo culture as faultless and idyllic. Indeed, Achebe would contest such a romantic portrayal of his native people. In fact, many Western writers who wrote about colonialism (including Joseph Conrad, George Orwell, Herman Melville, and Graham Greene) were opposed to imperialism but were romantic in their portrayal of noble savages — primitive and animalistic, yet uncorrupted and innocent. The opposition to imperialism that such authors voiced often rested on the notion that an advanced Western society corrupts and destroys the non-Western world. Achebe regards this notion as an unacceptable argument as well as a myth. The Igbos were not noble savages, and although the Igbo world was eventually destroyed, the indigenous culture was never an idyllic haven, even before the arrival of the white colonialists. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe depicts negative as well as positive elements of Igbo culture, and he is sometimes as critical of his own people as he is of the colonizers.
Achebe has been a major force in the worldwide literary movement to define and describe this African experience. Other postcolonial writers in this movement include Leopold Senghor, Wole Soyinka, Aime Cesaire, Derek Walcott, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Birago Diop. These writers not only confront a multiethnic perspective of history and truth, but they also challenge readers to reexamine themselves in this complex and evolving world.
As an African novel written in English and departing significantly from more familiar colonial writing, Things Fall Apart was a ground breaking work. Achebe's role in making modern African literature a part of world literature cannot be understated.
Note: Throughout this novel, Achebe uses the spelling Ibo, the old spelling of the Umuofian community. Throughout the CliffsNotes, as well as on the map, the contemporary spelling Igbo is used.
A Brief History of Nigeria
The history of Nigeria is bound up with its geography. About one-third larger than the state of Texas, Nigeria is located above the inner curve of the elbow on the west coast of Africa, just north of the equator and south of the Sahara Desert. More than two hundred ethnic groups — each with its own language, beliefs, and culture — live in present-day Nigeria. The largest ethnic groups are the mostly Protestant Yoruba in the west, the Catholic Igbo in the east, and the predominantly Muslim Hausa-Fulani in the north. This diversity of peoples is the result of thousands of years of history; as traders, nomads, and refugees from invaders and climatic changes came to settle with the indigenous population, and as foreign nations became aware of the area's resources.
The events in Things Fall Apart take place at the end of the nineteenth century and in the early part of the twentieth century. Although the British did not occupy most of Nigeria until 1904, they had a strong presence in West Africa since the early nineteenth century. The British were a major buyer of African slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In 1807, however, the British outlawed slave trade within their empire. At the time, they did not yet control Nigeria, and internal wars continually increased the available supply of captured slaves. In 1861, frustrated with the expanding slave trade, the British decided to occupy Lagos, a major slave-trading post and the capital of present-day Nigeria. Slowly and hesitantly, the British occupied the rest of Nigeria.
Ultimately, the British were prompted to occupy Nigeria for more than the slave trade. The British were in competition with other Europeans for control of the natural wealth of West Africa. At the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 — a meeting arranged to settle rivalries among European powers — the British proclaimed Nigeria to be their territory. They bought palm oil, peanuts, rubber, cotton, and other agricultural products from the Nigerians. Indeed, trade in these products made some Nigerian traders very wealthy. In the early twentieth century, the British defined the collection of diverse ethnic groups as one country, Nigeria, and declared it a colony of the British Empire.
The British moved into Nigeria with a combination of government control, religious mission, and economic incentive. In the north, the British ruled indirectly, with the support of the local Muslim leaders, who collected taxes and administered a government on behalf of the British. In the south, however, where communities (such as Umuofia in Things Fall Apart) were often not under one central authority, the British had to intervene directly and forcefully to control the local population.
For example, a real-life tragedy at the community of Ahiara serves as the historical model for the massacre of the village of Abame in Chapter 15 ofThings Fall Apart. On November 16, 1905, a white man rode his bicycle into Ahiara and was killed by the natives. A month later, an expedition of British forces searched the villages in the area and killed many natives in reprisal.
The Ahiara incident led to the Bende-Onitsha Hinterland Expedition, a force created to eliminate Igbo opposition. The British destroyed the powerful Awka Oracle and killed all opposing Igbo groups. In 1912, the British instituted the Collective Punishment Ordinance, which stipulated punishment against an entire village or community for crimes committed by one or more persons against the white colonialists.
The British operated an efficient administrative system and introduced a form of British culture to Nigeria. They also sent many capable young Nigerians to England for education. The experience of Nigerians who lived overseas in the years preceding, during, and after World War II gave rise to a class of young, educated nationalists who agitated for independence from Great Britain. The British agreed to the Nigerians' demands and, in 1947, instituted a ten-year economic plan toward independence. Nigeria became an independent country on October 1, 1960, and became a republic in 1963.
With the British long gone from Nigeria, corruption and a lack of leadership continued to hamper Nigeria's quest for true democracy. A series of military coups and dictatorships in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s replaced the fragile democracy that Nigeria enjoyed in the early 1960s. In 1993, Nigeria held a democratic presidential election, which was followed by yet another bloodless coup. And so continues the political pattern for the troubled, violent, most populous country in Africa.

Caesar in Julius Caesar

In using Julius Caesar as a central figure, Shakespeare is less interested in portraying a figure of legendary greatness than he is in creating a character who is consistent with the other aspects of his drama. If Brutus and Cassius were eminently evil men insidiously planning the cold-blooded murder of an eminently admirable ruler, Julius Caesar would be little more than a melodrama of suspense and revenge. On the other hand, if Caesar were wholly the bloody tyrant, there would be little cause for Brutus' hesitation and no justification for Antony's thirst for revenge. In fact, Shakespeare creates in Caesar a character who is sometimes reasonable, sometimes superstitious, sometimes compassionate, and sometimes arrogantly aloof. In so doing, he has projected Caesar as a man whom the nobility have just reasons to fear, yet who is not a villain.
Flavius concludes his criticism of Caesar in Act I, Scene 1, by expressing his fear that Caesar desires to "soar above the view of men / And keep us all in servile fearfulness." His opinion is given credence when, moments later, Casca and Antony's attitude toward Caesar demonstrates that they consider him a man whose every wish should be considered a command by the citizens of Rome. Caesar's opinion of himself throughout shows that he complies with that attitude. He does not fear Cassius because he believes himself to be beyond the reach of mere humans, and he caps his explanation of his incapability of experiencing fear by observing, ". . . for always I am Caesar." However, his reference to his partial deafness provides an obvious contrast between the conceptions of the vain man who perceives himself in godlike terms and the actual, aging man who stands in imminent danger of assassination. His potential for evil is further emphasized by the swiftness with which he summarily has Flavius and Marullus "put to silence." Finally, at the very moment preceding his death, Caesar compares himself to the gods of Olympus in his determination to continue his arbitrary administration of Roman justice.
Caesar's teeming arrogance and pride more than offset his proven ability to reason. He expresses a fatalistic acceptance of the inevitability of death when he tells Calphurnia how strange it is to him "that men should fear; / Seeing that death, a necessary end, / Will come when it will come." But it is not his belief that the hour of his death has been predetermined and thus cannot be avoided that causes him to ignore the portents, his priests, and Calphurnia. Instead, he ignores them because of Decius' challenge to his sense of pride and to his ambition. Caesar, who is so perceptive in his analysis of Cassius, cannot always look "quite through the deeds" of a calculating deceiver.
From his first appearance, Caesar openly displays a superstitious nature, but also from the beginning he displays a propensity to ignore warnings and signs that should alert a man of his beliefs. He enters the action of the play by advising Calphurnia to seek a cure for her sterility by ritual, and he exits fifteen lines later, dismissing the soothsayer as "a dreamer." He ignores the soothsayer, Calphurnia, the many portents, his priests, and finally Artemidorus because he has ceased to think of himself as a fallible human being, and because he passionately wants to be crowned king. He does not fear Cassius, although he knows him to be a danger to political leaders, because he believes that he and Cassius occupy two separate levels of existence. Cassius is a man; Caesar, a demigod. He even comes to think of himself in terms of abstract qualities, considering himself older and more terrible even than "danger." His sense of superiority to his fellow humans, as well as his overriding ambition to be king, ultimately prevent him from observing and reasoning clearly.
Caesar as a viable character in the play endures beyond his assassination. Brutus wants to "come by Caesar's spirit / And not dismember Caesar." In fact, Brutus and the conspirators succeed in dismembering the corporeal Caesar, but they fail to destroy his spirit. Antony invokes the spirit of Caesar first in his soliloquy in Act III, Scene 1, and he uses it to bring the citizens of Rome to rebellion in Act III, Scene 2. The ghost of Caesar appears to Brutus at Sardis and again at Philippi, signifying that Brutus has failed to reconcile mentally and morally his participation in the murder, as well as signifying that his and Cassius' fortunes are fading. Caesar's spirit ceases to be a force in the play only when Cassius and Brutus commit suicide, each acknowledging that he does so to still the spirit of Caesar.

cliffnotes on julius caesar

In 1599, when William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was performed at the new Globe Theatre, Elizabeth I was an aged monarch with no legitimate heir — neither a child of her own nor a named heir. The people of England worried about succession, fully aware of the power struggles that could take place when men vied for the throne of England. They were also aware of the realities of the violence of civil strife.
It is no surprise, then, that the subject matter of this play was relevant to their concerns, even as the content of this play drew on and adapted ancient history. In 44 BC, Rome was at the center of a large and expanding empire. The city was governed by senators but their politics were plagued by in-fighting, and the real glory and strength belonged to generals like Caesar and Antony. In addition, a new group, the Tribunes, had entered the political field. After a hard-won battle, the plebeians, the working class of Rome, had elected these men as their representatives and protectors (as represented by Flavius and Marullus in Act I). The return of the triumphant Caesar and his desire to centralize power went against the grain of the decentralizing that was taking place. Such a setting was fraught with the makings of dramatic conflict.
Shakespeare took this potential for upheaval and used it to examine a leadership theme. Concentrating on the responsibilities of the ruling class, he looked at what could happen if that class no longer had a unified vision and had lost sight of what it meant to be Roman. In fact, the characters of the play lose touch with the tradition, glory, integrity, and stoicism of their past. As you read the play, note the way that Cassius uses the memory of that glorious past to persuade men to become conspirators, and the way that the actions of the conspirators do or do not return Rome to its golden age.
Persuasion, too, is a concept at the center of this play. Everyone seems to be trying to convince someone else of something: Caesar tries to create an image in the public's mind of his crowning (an ancient form of spin doctoring); Cassius finds the best way to manipulate each man he seeks to bring to his side; and Brutus, whom the reader hopes will refuse to participate, takes longer than the others to respond to Cassius' manipulations, but eventually does respond and even finishes the job for him by persuading himself (see his soliloquy in Act II, Scene 1). This pivotal scene, when Brutus joins the conspirators, is also interesting because Portia, Brutus' wife, serves as the voice of Brutus' conscience. Portia is, in some ways, a stronger character than Brutus and yet, because of her position as a woman in an overwhelmingly male-dominated world, her role is minimal.
If gender is not a central issue to this play, questions of masculinity and effeminacy are. Caesar's weakness — his effeminacy — makes him vulnerable. On the other hand, the incorporation of the so-called feminine traits of compassion and love into the friendship between Brutus and Cassius paradoxically allows the men to show greater strength and allows the audience to have greater sympathy for them. (For a more detailed discussion of this issue see "A World Without Women" in the Critical Essays section of this Note.)
Finally, it is important to have a look at the end of this play and consider what kind of resolution it actually brings. In fact, this approach helps analyze any of Shakespeare's plays. Near the end of Julius Caesar, lessons appear to have been learned and Brutus seems to have received his proper due, but audience must not forget that the final speakers, Antony and Octavius, have not always been truthful men and may not be in the future. The ambiguity of the ending of this play is characteristic of Shakespeare's work. The more neatly things seem to be resolved, the more likely it is that the action has just begun.

dulce et decorum est

Below is a link to a reading of the poem and a few notes.



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Proverbs in Things Fall Apart

PROVERBS in Things Fall Apart

A proverb is a short pithy saying that usually states a general truth or piece of advice. In the Umuofian society, proverbs are used very often in conversation and help people understand things better by presenting the truth and can also give them advice. Parables or myth-stories serve as a spiritual, moral and practical compass for the Igbo. They teach reasoning, tradition and cultural values. Different characters take different stories and assimilate them into their life. Okonkwo, for example, prefers the violent masculine stories of his ancestors to act out in his own exploits. Here are a few examples of proverbs used in Things Fall Apart, along with what they can be interpreted to mean.

Proverb 1: "Okonkwo was as slippery as a fish in water."(Chapter 1)
Meaning: Simply put, this proverb was intended to mean that Okonkwo was fast and agile. This particular proverb is a good example of how some were described, its intention, to give people a better understanding of a person by simply giving a metaphorical saying that he/she could easily visualize.

Proverb 2: "Proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten." (Chapter 1)
Meaning: While this proverb is more complex than the first, it still can easily be interpreted. It is essential for the reader to know that palm-oil is a very important item in Umuofian society, and is used to cook and as a fuel source. Eating the words simply is a poetic way of saying to take them in, or to gain knowledge. Basically, this one means that proverbs are, essentially, words of wisdom.

Proverb 3: "Our elders say that the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them." (Chapter 1)
 Meaning: Unoka decided to use this complex saying to say that he will pay his biggest debtors, or people he owes more money to before the debtors that he owes less, most likely as a way to express his gratitude for the generosity of those who lend him more.

Proverb 4: "If a child washes his hands he could eat with kings." (Chapter 1)
Meaning: In the Umuofian society, if you are able to remove the footprint of your ancestors, you would be able to aspire to anyone you wished in the society. Okonkwo could not be respected, due to his father’s notoriety, until he became the notorious warrior that he was.

Proverb 5: "When the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for a walk."(Chapter 2)
Meaning: For the people of Umuofia, the moon was very important. The influence and effect of the moon on the people in the tribe was so strong that if the moon shone on them, even a cripple could walk. This was an extreme way of saying that the moon gave the tribe the power to do anything.

Proverb 6: "Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to other, let his wing break." (Chapter 3)
 Meaning: This proverb is rather complex, but it basically means that Okonkwo was ashamed of his father and was afraid of having the same misfortune of his – father and the same end.

Proverb 7: "A man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness." (Chapter 3)
Meaning: According to this proverb, if you respect greatness, you will become great yourself. In addition, this proverb means that in Umuofia successful men respect greatness.

Proverb 8: "A toad does not run in the daytime for nothing" (Chapter 3)
Meaning: This proverb could mean a multitude of things, however it is quite apparent that the main meaning is that something strange does not happen for no reason at all. Obviously, a toad does not usually run in the daytime, unless something happened, and the reader can infer that the proverb means that everything happens for a reason.

Proverb 9: "An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb." (Chapter 3)
Meaning: This proverb means that someone is uneasy if something is said that affects them personally; whether it is a joke or not – they cannot laugh about it.

Proverb 10: "The lizard that jumped from high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did." (Chapter 3)
Meaning: This is a simple proverb. Even if nobody appreciates what you have done, you will remain proud of yourself since you know your accomplishment was successful.

Proverb 11: "Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching." (Chapter 3)
 Meaning:  Essentially, if Nwakibie gave yams to every man who asked, many of the yams would be wasted by their lack of effort. The yams did not mean as much to someone who had not rightfully earned them. Basically, someone must know how hard others worked for what they have in order to respect the property themselves.

 Proverb 12: "You can tell a ripe corn by its look"  (Chapter 3)
 Meaning: Branching off the previous proverb, Nwakibie could tell that Okonkwo is ready to receive his gift and not take it for granted. This means that none of the yams will be destroyed

 Proverb 13: "Looking at the king's mouth, one would think he never sucked at his mother breasts" (Chapter 4)
 Meaning: Although Okonkwo once was a little baby, it feels as he never could be so vulnerable, because now is so big and robust.  It scares him to think that he could have ever been as vulnerable as he was when he was younger.

 Proverb 14: "Those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble."  (Chapter 4)
 Meaning: This proverb is also rather simple. Basically, people who are blessed with luck by the gods, should be humble, and not criticize other people. They should not think they are better solely because they are luckier.

 Proverb 15: "When a man says yes his chi says yes also."  (Chapter 4)
 Meaning: A man's spirit, or chi, will guide him and help him tackle any task that is at hand once he puts his mind to it.

 Proverb 16: "They called him the little bird nza who so far forgot himself after a heavy meal that he challenged his chi." (Chapter 4)
 Meaning: This proverb could indicate that Okonkwo was ignorant and not humble. Okonkwo was said to be so proud he would challenge his own chi. Even though being proud would be a good thing, it would be bad to think a man could challenge his chi.

Proverb 17: "A child's fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm." (Chapter 8 )
Meaning: Once again, we are shown that proverbs are complex and poetic ways of saying simple things. This one simply means that those who obey their parents will not be punished by their parents.

 Proverb 18: "When mother-cow is chewing grass its young ones watch its mouth." (Chapter 8 )
 Meaning: Children copy their parents and learn everything they do from them. It is important for parents to set a good example, or else their children will not live up to their expectations.

 Proverb 19: "If one finger brought oil it soiled the others." (Chapter 13 )
 Meaning: Basically, if you do not treat yourself for sickness, whether it be mental or physical, you will pass it on to others.

 Proverb 20: "Mother is supreme" (Chapter 14 )
 Meaning: Your mother is extremely important as she is the one who gives you life.

  Proverb 21: "Never kill a man who says nothing." (Chapter 15 )
 Meaning: If somebody never says anything to you that offends you, then you never should do wrong to them. Only if they do something wrong that offends you should you take action against them.

 Proverb 22: "There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts."
 Meaning: Men who shout should not be feared, as that is the most they will do. They will never be the type of person to take physical action; therefore, you should not fear them.

 Proverb 23: "Living fire begets cold, impotent ash." (  Chapter 16 )
 Meaning: If someone thinks too highly of himself and his influence is too much, then the person alongside them will never be able to come as successful.

Proverb 24: "A child cannot pay for his mother’s milk." (  Chapter 19 )
 Meaning: Parents who think that their children should pay them back for taking care of them are ridiculous. This is because the parents are the ones who brought them to life and therefore they are responsible for them and should take care of them by nature.

 Proverb 25: "Men have learned to shoot without missing their mark and I have learned to fly without perching on a twig." (  Chapter 24)
 Meaning: External influences have a great enough effect on people to change their fate. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

julius caesar translations

Attached is the link to Sparknotes' No Fear Shakespeare, Julius Caesar translations (line by line).

Julius Caesar videos

Please see link below for youtube's BBC version of the play, Julius Caesar.