“During last planting season when a white man appeared in an iron horse, sipping his wine the people ran away in fear as he beckoned them. Then when elders sought help from the Oracle, it told them the strange man would break their clan and spread destruction among them. Thus the people decided to kill him. The Oracle also warned the people of other white men appearing on route and that they were locusts meaning the white man was a mere harbinger for the destruction to come.”
In chapter 7, the locusts appearance were seen as both sign of destruction/happiness by Nigerians, as the locusts destroyed their crops, but they tolerated its actions so that they could enjoy the pleasure of eating it later. This means locusts always came bearing harsh consequences. Now the white man’s appearance is symbolized as locusts descending which foreshadows to the previous reference and its meaning. The white man before the Abame natives killed him didn’t utter a single word and the silence was a threatening sign as later as paying for their actions, other white men emerged along with a large number of others, surrounded the large Abame market and began to shoot. Everybody was killed except a few who fled to Umuofia as a band of fugitives. Abame was no more, a peaceful village completely wiped out.
However to look on another perspective one could say, the Abame people had a reason to kill the white man who visited them prior to the large group of white men’s visit because, at that moment the Abame natives felt the action to kill was the safest to do to protect themselves and were afraid of the colonist’s appearance and didn’t feel comfortable, welcoming or trusty of him and/or any other white man. And after hearing the Oracle’s words that the man was a harbinger/sign that destruction was on its way with more men of his kind arriving to take over the clan, the Abame people became more anxious and to take precaution they decided to kill the man. However, little did they know more men on their way would unexpectedly gather and attack in a large market and that Abame natives had no choice but to flee or die.
Then again going back to why the decision to kill the stranger was bad is because if we recall a fact mentioned in chapter 2 it said that, Oracle never allowed the people to wage a war without first making peace, so here Oracle provided a warning but never gave the people an order to kill, but Abame’s people killing the white man due to their fear without obeying traditional rules, might have led to the consequences, the people’s doom and their suffering as a cause of the disaster.
The disaster occurred where fearful ruthless white men and their band of slaves, suddenly attacked with weapons giving no time for Abame’s people to defend and mobilize by gathering their artilleries. Uchendu felt the people of Abame were fools to kill the white man who said nothing. Okonkwo felt the people were fools because they could have brought their machetes and guns to kill the white men who later came by, after the first man who came to explore the terrain as a messenger’s visit.
And finally to support the actions of Abame to be right is because, Uchendu and Okonkwo might see Abame locals as fools to have killed the strange man and face the consequences of the rest of the white man’s kind to come and take revenge, but at that time the people had no other option than to be wary and take decision and this matter to their hands, based on listening to the warning given by the Oracle.
In other words, through the Abame story we understand multiple perspectives:
- Abame faced the consequences because they followed Oracle’s warning in a misinterpreted manner by disobeying traditions and waging an unfair fight and got what came for them as punishment, where Abame’s people killed a white man so the man’s kind got angry and gathered themselves to destroy Abame as revenge.
- A foreshadowing of locust’s symbolism to previous chapter, and locusts are a symbol of disaster as coined in the bible, and Achebe ironically comparing white men to the locusts displays the tragedy of this village will result in everyone bound to die eventually, and that the fugitives who fled to Umuofia might be lucky now but it just means sooner or later they will suffer too.
- Then as a positive side, the people of Abame might have been seen foolish in the eyes of Okonkwo, Uchendu and Obierika hearing the story, but the people’s decision of killing the first white man to set foot on Abame could be argued as the right choice, because the natives had no other option and couldn’t risk their lives by letting a stranger in their village and due to fear and for their safety they decision to kill the man could be proven accurate. What I mean is, the people of Abame might have killed one white man but the retaliation of a large group of white men coming to kill the entire Abame later is a crime blown out of proportion and is too much for revenge. By describing this excessive action of vengeance, Achebe introduces white men and their character of how they go to drastic extent in agonizing and persecuting people with an insensitive attitude. Additionally it proves this moment onwards in the novel the white men and Africans are opposing as rivals with the high possibility of an inevitable conflict to wage between the two clans.
- Colonization begins and we get a hint of its meaning, of the characteristic of white men, and real life incidents relate to what’s happening in the novel too.
The woeful story suggests the white men were scary and few of Umuofians like Obierika felt the people of Abame paid for their foolishness by killing the white man sent, firstly. Obierika thought, the white man who spoke nothing even when he was going to be killed shows the dark silence as a sign of terror and danger, thus Abame’s people should have got the hint and let go of the man but despite him not uttering a word they killed him foolishly. Thus the bigger disaster arose as more white men gathered, arrived killed them all in Abame. This means the white men represent locusts that will come gathered, wreak havoc and could symbolize that Abame’s tragedy was barely anything compared to a catastrophic destruction yet to come. Readers understand a glimpse of colonization where Oracle’s words came true as Abame was destroyed undoubtedly and readers understand the struggles of imperialism from the stories of white men Okonkwo has heard before which’s: “White men were fierce they made powerful guns and strong drinks. They took slaves away across the seas.” So by mentioning slaves in the novel it means the white men conquered over lands especially of Africa, took over most of the men controlled them and maltreated them inferior mainly for their color and made them obey the white men like masters.
Achebe’s aim to write Things Fall Apart and promote equality, preventing racial disparity as voice of Africans is revealing gradually as at this point in the novel, we see colonization of white men on African grounds taking place that correlates to real incidents taking place at that period. Since evidently, the Abame disaster in the novel associates with an actual incident in 1905, in Ahiara, Nigeria. Therefore we can predict, how Achebe and his people struggled for freedom during the terrorizing period of imperialism in real life is soon to be depicted in the progressing chapters of this story.