Things Fall Apart

by: Chinua Achebe

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 4

He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This sentence, which concludes the novel, satirizes the entire tradition of western ethnography and imperialism itself as a cultural project, and it suggests that the ethnographer in question, the District Commissioner, knows very little about his subject and projects a great deal of his European colonialist values onto it. The language of the commissioner’s proposed title reveals how misguided he is: that he thinks of himself as someone who knows a great deal about pacifying the locals is highly ironic, since, in fact, he is a primary source of their distress, not their peace. Additionally, the notion of “[p]acification” is inherently offensive—a condescending conception of the natives as little more than helpless infants. Similarly, the label “[p]rimitive” comes across as a patronizing insult that reflects the commissioner’s ignorance about the Igbo and their complexly ritualized and highly formalized mode of life. The assertion that the commissioner has come up with a title “after much thought” accentuates the fact that the level of attention he has paid to his own thoughts and perceptions well exceeds that paid to the actual subject of the study.