“Things Fall Apart,” written by Chinua Achebe, and V. S. Naipaul’s “A Bend in the River” are seen as sequels by many people. Both novels contain introspective reflection on the practices of western modernity as well as the meaning of life. Furthermore, both authors differ from many post-colonial writers because they display a more painful and complex attitude towards colonization. In this aspect, the novels cannot be described as black and white or good and bad. Out of the numerous characters that are displayed in the novels, it is worth comparing and contrasting Mahesh from “A Bend in the River,” and Mr. Brown from “Things Fall Apart” with themes such as attitude towards the natives and modernity.
Firstly, one of the dominant themes in both novels is the attitude towards the local people, thus the Africans. In many novels, the Africans are depicted as savages and barbarians, people with no values and culture. Similarly, in “A Bend in the River,” although Mahesh is Indian like Salim, he is not very into African people and their culture. He solely cares about himself and sees himself superior to the locals. Throughout the novel, he does not even once try to learn about African culture and thus when Salim describes Raymond’s interest in African history as being superficial, he says:
“He knew so much, had researched so much … But he had less true knowledge of Africa, less feel for it, than Indar or Nazruddin or even Mahesh”
This quote shows how unfamiliar Mahesh is with local culture and history. Mahesh is married to Shoba, and his only concern is to do business and make a lot of money. He displays a more individualistic attitude and strives to enhance his own future by using Africa’s state. Moreover he uses the word “malin” which means evil in French to describe the locals. This refers to the fact that Mahesh believes that what the Europeans are doing to the locals is in fact advantageous to the Africans but most Africans are unaware and are against the European rule. Accordingly, Mahesh represents people who are neither from a imperial country, nor from a colonized country but tries to attain a high position by using the state of disorder.
On the other hand, Mr. Brown, a character from “Things Fall Apart” displays an opposite attitude towards the locals. This is interesting as he is from an imperial country and is the first white missionary to travel to Umuofia. He is very understanding towards the locals and tries his best to maintain peace between his companions and the Africans. He is kind as he listens to the villagers’ stories and beliefs with respect instead of directly denouncing them and forcing them to convert to Christianity. For example in chapter 21, Mr. Brown and Akunna talk about Chukwu, a Nigerian god. When he hears about her opinion, he calmly tries to convert her but eventually fails. Furthermore, he builds a school and a hospital for the locals and tells them to receive education or else the educated might rule them. These kinds of generosity affects the locals and Mr. Brown is able to win many tribal people’s hearts.
“And so Mr. Brown came to be respected even by the clan, because he trod softly on its faith. He made friends with some of the great men of the clan and on one of his frequent visits to the neighboring villages he had been presented with a carved elephant tusk, which was a sign of dignity and rank.”
Therefore, during the periods in which Mr. Brown is still alive, there is relative peace and respect between the colonizers and the colonized except for Okwonko and a few others who want to kill the Europeans and destroy the church.
Analyzing the attitude towards the two characters reflect the complexity of colonization for the two authors. As most post-colonial novels reveal, people think there is a tension between the West and the rest and that all Europeans do not understand the locals and the rest of the people hate the colonizers and want them to be driven out of their country. Thus, Mahesh would be expected to be against Europeans and feel sympathy towards the locals. However, the situation is vice versa as Mahesh enjoys doing business with the Europeans and abhores the natives. As a colonizer, Mr. Brown would be expected to be Reverend Smith, who is vengeful, manipulative and shows no interest in local culture. In contrast, he does not see himself as superior to the natives and treats them with genuine sincerity. This is hinted at from his surname “Brown.” Although he is a white man, he is able to understand both sides.
Secondly, another theme that overlaps the two novels is modernity. In response to criticisms that maintain that the colonizers destructed local culture and have exploited the natives’ land and labor force, the colonizers have always asserted that they are spreading “modernity” and “civilization” to them. The locals, whose country has been colonized, show two types of reactions. While one group displays complete rejection of the Europeans, the other group embodying Mahesh believe that the Europeans actually brought modernity with them and helped the country advance. According to Mahesh, the colonizers have brought with them items that Africans cannot produce. He is a character who is obsessed with modernity and technology as he is even fascinated by the fact that trade is done by signing papers and the items arrive later.
“(Mahesh) Electric batteries for instance – I bought and sold quantities even before they arrived; I didn’t have to handle them physically or even see them. It was like a form of play…”
He lives in his own little world where everything is interesting and believes that other people will be just as excited as he is. To illustrate, he has previously been trying to sell name plate as he has been captured by the preciseness of machines to engrave letters on plastic plates. This business eventually ends up with complete failure as no one finds it useful.
Meanwhile, Mr. Brown does not see modernity and technology as something grandeur as Mahesh. This might be due to the fact that technology gradually advanced and he was able to witness the enhancement of technology so is familiar with it. While other colonizers feel proud by the fact that they have technology in their hands and the natives don’t Mr. Brown does not display such pride. As he is more experienced with modernity and technology, and gets along well with the locals, he is able to see that the two aspects are not always good. This is why he builds a school and warns the locals to go to school is they do not want to be ruled.
“He went from family to family begging people to send their children to his school… Mr. Brown begged and argued and prophesied. He said that the leader of the land in the future would be men and women who had learnt to read and write. If Umuofia failed to send her children to school, strangers would come from other places to rule them.”
Although Mr. Brown’s primary motive is to convert the natives, he also strives to encourage them to learn how to read and write instead of just protesting against Christianity.
These two altering thoughts about modernity that Mahesh and Mr. Brown possess are interesting as it shows their understanding of modernity. For Mahesh, modernity is about trade, technology and a short cut to power and success. This is why he seems to be “unable to resist anything that might be described as a business offer” and try out many businesses that end in failure. Whereas Mr. Brown, who is from a modern country, sees being modern as being learned. He gives importance to education instead of machines and trading because he knows that technology develops from educated people and is aware that the locals can do the same if they receive education. However, Mahesh only focuses on buying machines instead of thinking about learning how to make them.
As a result, the two themes, the natives and modernity, and the attitudes of Mahesh and Mr. Brown prove how complicated the relationship of the colonizers and the colonized actually is. Neither the colonizers nor the colonized can be said good or evil as people are more complex creatures. The colonizers cannot be completely accused for meaning mean to be locals as there were people like Mr. Brown who was gentler. Simultaneously, they cannot be praised for bringing modernity as people like Reverend Smith harshly neglected the locals and destroyed their culture. Similarly, not all locals rejected the Europeans like Salim and Okwonko as people like Mahesh and the outcasts favored them. This shows that colonization is an intricate matter that cannot be simplified as black or white.
 V. S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River, p183
 Chinua Achebe, “Things Fall Apart,” page 168
 Chinua Achebe, “Things Fall Apart,” page 88
 V. S. Naipaul, “a Bend in the River,” page 171
 V. S. Naipaul, “Things Fall Apart, page 91