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Reader Response on "Things Fall Apart" and "Apocalypse Now": Faces of Colonialism

Updated on November 23, 2014
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What I Sense

I have heard and read some of the tales pass on to us by our ancestors that concern the sorrowful and melancholic plight that they had experienced in the playful hands of the colonizers. These ancestors cannot necessarily be all the brave Filipino race. They are more than it. They are everywhere: in Africa, in the Americas and in the neighboring Asian sovereigns. So long as histories cry that these people were once colonized, mutilated and tampered by the whites just like the Filipino race, then we are one. The first people who fought for their freedom have the same race. They have the same blood of heroism and patriotism that binds them together as one. We, in the present times are descendants of the same brave and freedom- loving ancestors.

I have seen the horror of the aftermaths of colonialism. I have seen my country continue to suffer even in the midst of its democracy. At this age, I know how terrible it is to be colonized and be abused by these people who think highly of their selves as if they are of the higher culture and race, that they were sent to the places of the “savages” to civilize and make them humans. This can’t be denied because the accounts of history and literature don’t lie.

Colonel Kurtz of Apocalypse Now
Colonel Kurtz of Apocalypse Now | Source
Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart | Source

Apocalypse Now and Things Fall Apart

I was able to visit two of the most renowned and ageless pieces of arts: one is a film narrated by a representative of the white people entitled Apocalypse Now and the other is a novel scribbled by a representative of the oppressed people entitled Things Fall Apart. Although Apocalypse Now and Things Fall Apart were set in two very different time and location, they never fail to complement their sameness: the desire to expose the different faces of colonialism and the faces of the drastic changes that the colonized had because of them in terms of loyalty, values, culture and religion.


Storytelling versus Action

The film is mostly concern in storytelling. It emphasizes the struggle of a man to express his self and to have an identity, but Capt. Benjamin Willard, the narrator, is telling a story that is not his’ alone. He is telling a great story of troubled a man in the case of principle and loyalty, who made a mark on his life that could never be erased forever. Meanwhile, the novel is mostly concern in actions. The author, Chinua Achebe achieves a narration that is active and synchronized. He is telling a tale from the vantage point of view of the native people. He wanted his side of the people to be heard by the world that is full of prejudice.

Common Conflict

Apocalypse Now and Things Fall Apart share common conflicts and causes of conflicts—colonialism. While in the movie the conflict is on the colonizer’s part—Willard and Col. Kurtz—and less on the native people, the novel, on the other hand, has its conflict on the natives especially on Okonkwu who is literally part of a tribe in Nigeria. The characters in both narratives struggle in term of ideals, religion, culture and loyalty. In terms of ideals, both Kurtz and Okonkwu struggle to deal with their ego. Kurtz, as described by Willard and as shown in the film try to rebel against the US government and declared himself as pro- natives. He is against the US’ ways and ideals on democracy and world dominance. It appears that Kurtz is like most of our fellow Filipinos who become dissatisfied with our government and later turn into communism. Communism was very rampant in Vietnam at the time of the film. The Vietcong wanted to unite Vietnam under one communist rule. However, USA was against communism and so it involved itself on Vietnam’s business which I perceive to be very distasteful. Okonkwu, on the other hand, is adamant on his views and ideals on masculinity and male pride which lead to all his struggles in life and later on, his death which is not worthy of emulation in the standards of their tribe.

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Religion

In terms of religion, Things Fall Apart’s Okonkwu was not open- minded enough to brace the new religion and rule introduced by the Christian Europeans. It is in this that he become outraged in the changes of his people and as he watched them slowly becoming just like the Europeans particularly the British, he struggled to keep himself afloat. With the coming of the Europeans in Nigeria and with the introduction of a new religion, the people are changed forever. They can no longer be considered as pure Igbo because a lot of changes have come to them and one of them struggles—their leader or societal symbol: Okunkwu. Kurtz, in the film, established himself as a god in inner Cambodia. In this case, I can say that his act is immoral in a sense that he is a human being and that being with the native people as their “protector” does not warrant him to mutilate their local culture, tradition and religion. As far as I know, Buddhist temples are regarded to be sacred, but Kurtz lived in the temple himself, thereby establishing himself as their god and father. As I perceive it, it is as if he doesn’t want to regard the US as god, he wanted to establish himself as a god which in a sense is a subtle neo- colonialism and tyranny. It is in here that the “heroism” of Willard comes in when he assassinated Kurtz in order to stop his greed and insane ways. However, as I see it, both Kurtz and the US government represented by Willard equate each other in terms of greed in power because even until now, for instance, either actively or subtly, the USA still wants to run the world and the Philippines, as a former colony, is no exception to this.

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These are just some of the countless faces of colonialism presented in the two literatures. If we read and watch closely the two of them, we can still glean a lot of things that’s concerns the natives and all others including the colonizers themselves such as the abuse and exploitation of the natural resources of the receiving nation. The two pieces of literature are similar in many ways, hence, their sameness. Both characters were killed because of their own beliefs and ideals in life. In addition, the root cause of their death is colonialism and the things that it carries therein. How about the natives in both countries—Vietnam and Nigeria—or in most colonized countries? Their lives and conditions are altered forever. And these changes likewise come in two faces: the affirmative and negative; changes that equate eternity and absoluteness.

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