History, societal stereotypes, influential people, as well as literature play a major role in shaping an individual’s perceptions. In the recent past, the world has undergone a prodigious change in attitude towards culturally diverse groups of people as well as places. This change is apparent in the study of Sir Henry Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and Chinualumogu Achebe’s Things Fall Apart written within a century. These novels give a unique opportunity to analyze the attitudes of the colonial as well as post colonial writers towards the land of Africa and its people.
Haggard, unlike other colonial writers, has shown an effort towards distancing himself from the stereotypical views of the ‘mysterious land’. His attitudes towards the land and the people contradict previously published accounts by complacent and blindfolded colonial writers. This, however, does not overshadow the main theme of the novel King Solomon’s Mines, written as an adventure for men, young and old alike. After reading the outrageously inaccurate representation of his people in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Chinua Achebe was deeply hurt and disappointed.
He decided to write Things Fall Apart in order to educate the ignorant western society as well as eradicate many false perceptions of Europeans towards his motherland. Even though Achebe is successful to a greater extent in offering a highly credible as well as historically accurate account, both novels, Things Fall Apart and King Solomon’s Mines have conveyed the perceptions of their writers towards Africa and Africans, exemplifying their unique belief systems, values in society as well as the prevalent natural beauty of the land.
Beliefs set each individual apart as well as form an important component of every civilization. Haggard and Achebe have both written about the common beliefs of the native people. They both mention the dependency of the people on supernatural forces in their everyday life. In King Solomon’s Mines, the king of Zululand always asks Gagool, the witch doctor as well as the voice of god, before performing any task. Similarly, the Ibo people portrayed in Things Fall Apart consult Agbala, the Oracle of Hills and Caves when uncertain about their actions:
The Oracle was called Agbala, and people came from far and near to consult it. They came when misfortune dogged their steps or when they had a dispute with their neighbors. They came to discover what the future held for them or to consult the spirits of their departed fathers. (Achebe, 11) In King Solomon’s Mines, Haggard describes a festival where the brutal king sacrifices many young men in order to please the god and shows their general lust for blood and destruction. The novel perceives the natives as being violent brutal men who lust for killing and blood.
There they stood, the hands twitching, the lips apart, the fierce features instinct with the hungry lust of battle, and in the eyes look like the glare of bloodhound when after long pursuit he sights his quarry. (Haggard, 203) Festivals have been depicted as an integral part of Ibo tradition. Contrary to Haggard’s brutal description however, these occasions are to celebrate the prosperity of the clan, as well as thank the gods and goddesses for a successful year. As Achebe elaborates, “No work was done during the Week of Peace. People called on their neighbors and drank palm wine.
” (Achebe, 26), and “The Feast of New Yam was held every year before the harvest began, to honor the earth goddess and the ancestral spirits. ” (Achebe, 31), Ibo people, apart from making offerings of produce and sacrificing animals, followed elaborate customs that involved maintaining peace and conducting grand feasts. The natives had developed a belief system upon which they could explain occurrences of various natural phenomenas as well as the significance of events in daily life. African society is depicted as one dominated by men.
Haggard acknowledges the presence of a type of system under which the tribes are organized but he still considers Africans as uncivilized people and states “It is always well when dealing with uncivilized people, not to be in too great a hurry. They are apt to make politeness for awe or servility” (Haggard, 125) Moreover, Umbopa, the native servant refers to the Europeans’ lust for wealth and diamonds commenting “the diamonds are surely there, and you shall have them since you white men are so fond of toys and money” (Haggard, 122) This suggests that Africans lack a monetary system.
Twala, the merciless king, is also shown to abuse his power and brutally murder innocent men. On the other hand, Things Fall Apart emphasizes that harmony was maintained by a group of men. Power comes from unity. Success was a direct product of hard work and dedication “Fortunately, among these people a man’s worth was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father. ” (Achebe, 5) and measured by possessions such as wives, children, barn etc… “There was a wealthy man …