This essay defends the proposition that in tragedy and realism Achebe finds the efficacious aesthetic means to remake the African person and world—as represented by Okonkwo and Umuofia in Things Fall Apart—to humanist measure. In invoking the two aesthetic forms, Achebe is to be seen delivering a literary rebuke to Joseph Conrad and Joyce Cary. Conrad’s use of impressionism in evoking the Congo’s presumed lack of humanity in Heart of Darkness impliedly denied that realism could have an African normativity. On the other hand, Cary’s Mister Johnson denied proper tragic stature to the African—and hence a humanity commensurate with the European—whose story it was telling by depicting him in mock tragedy. Pitted against Eurocentric denial is Achebe’s tragic-realist insistence in Things Fall Apart that African realities are humanistically translatable; and that African persons and worlds have a humanistic commensurability with those elsewhere.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1-29
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.