The importance of cultural tradition is a focal point in both Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. In both texts, the cultural tradition is tied deeply to the character’s identity. The masculinity and the aggression of the Igbo culture in Thing Fall Apart is the central source of Okonkwo’s identity. Similarly, the family unity, in the Fish Clan culture is what Saul values and are the foundation of his identity. The threatened cultures of both protagonists lead them to suffer and lose control of their life.
Although both characters suffer what they choose to value in their culture ultimately dictates their lives. Okonkwo chooses to end his life due to his masculine pride, anger, and violence whereas Saul reconnects to his Culture due to his value upon family unity. In both Things Fall Apart and Indian Horse the cultural tradition is presented as being very important as it ties deeply with the protagonist’s identities. The Igbo culture in Things Fall Apart is the central source which provides Okonkwo with his masculine pride and aggression. “Okonkwo was not afraid of war. He was a man of action, a man of war”(pg.10)Much of the Igbo culture as presented in the novel revolves around the structured gender roles. In the Igbo culture, women are perceived to be the weaker gender whereas men are the protectors and providers.
Men who cannot provide for their family are looked at as weak. This drives Okonkwo to become masculine and aggressive. “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper”(pg.8). Similarly, Saul’s culture provides him with a sense of comfort and happiness. The Fish Clan culture has strong beliefs of unity and family that are embedded in Saul. In the beginning of the book, Saul is very spiritual and receives visions of his ancestors.
“Our people have rituals and ceremonies meant to bring us vision. I have never participated in them, but I have seen things. I have been lifted out of this physical world into a place where time and space have a different rhythm”(pg.3). Saul’s cultural tradition gives him a sense of purpose and reminds him of his family unity. Although the cultural tradition in Things Fall Apart and Indian Horse is initially intact both traditions are slowly threatened, which lead both protagonists to lose control of their life.
In Indian Horse, Saul is taken away from his family and is forced to unlearn his culture and traditions. “At St. Jerome’s we work to remove the Indian from our children so that the blessings of the Lord may be evidenced by them”. During this period Saul loses touch with his family and traditions.
“It left me years ago, and the loss of that gift has been my greatest sorrow”. Saul is physically separated from his culture back home and suffers significant sexual, mental and physical abuse. Similarly, Okonkwo loses his meaning of life as he is stripped of his titles and exiled for 7 years. Okonkwo’s identity is based on the Igbo culture.
As the culture is threatened so is Okonkwo’s identity, as it is the first time he appears weak.Ultimately both protagonists endure sufferings and lose control. The key difference between them is what they find valuable in their culture.
Okonkwo values pride, masculinity, and aggressiveness. Their acceptance to adapt reveals two distinct outcomes as Okonkwo chooses to end his life whereas Saul reconnects to his culture. In Things Fall Apart Okonkwo relates his culture to masculine pride and aggressiveness which he, in turn, tries to possess. At a very young age, Okonkwo is fueled by the passion to not be like his father who in his eyes was a failure.
“His whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father” (Pg.13). Okonkwo’s resistance is primarily due to his fear of losing his status in the society as this has been a lifelong ambition for him. Okonkwo’s values drive him to not accept change and lead him to kill himself.
This is in contrast to Saul who relates his culture to family unity and happiness. As Saul reconnects to his culture he receives visions from his great-grandfather. This shows how Saul has accepted the change and goes back to his roots by maintaining strong cultural ties with the Fish Clan.Cultural tradition in Things Fall Apart and Indian Horse provide the protagonists an identity which is slowly threatened and leads both characters to different outcomes.