The idea of personhood in Chinua Achebe's: Things Fall Apart
In this paper, I explore the African normative idea of personhood as a philosophical theme in Things Fall Apart. (1) I do this in the context of communalism, which involves the mutual dependence between individuals and community. This dependence, which provides the foundation for people's actions, characters, and identities, is founded on the view that people have complex normative and spiritual relationships with others and with their ancestors in a community. The community and the relationships provide norms that indicate people's obligations, on the basis of which their achievements are evaluated and socially recognized. The recognition of one's achievements and demonstration of what I term "psychological wholesomeness" indicate that one has acquired a normative sense of personhood. I discuss some philosophical accounts of the African idea of personhood as a backdrop for exploring how this theme is utilized by Chinua Achebe. I explore how the ideas of achieving and not achieving personhood based on communal norms, obligations, achievements, and recognition are illustrated in the characters of Unoka and Okonkwo, who did not achieve personhood, and Obierika and Ezeudu, who did.