The essay Mother Tongue

The essay Mother Tongue, by Amy Tan, explores the correspondence between language and identity.
While African literature is not wildly popular in the West, many classic novels from the area are set in the continent. Works such as Heart of Darkness and Out of Africa paint Africans in a negative, inferior way, creating what is known as a single story for millions of readers. A single story is a term discussed by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie over the course of a TED Talk titled “the danger of a single story.” During which she explained, “‘… To create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become,'” (Adichie). Readers of novels that make the word Africans synonymous with “savages” (Conrad) are left with a tainted view of the cultures and people of Africa. All of this is highly present in Chinua Achebe’s work, Things Fall Apart. The final line of the novel, “The Commissioner had already chosen the title of his book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger,” (Achebe 209) demonstrates how disfigured a richly African story can get when written through the eyes of a white man. The Commissioner eliminated the Igbo culture from his work, thus persuading any reader to think no further of Africans than the word primitive.