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Things Fall Apart Reading Review
Title of Work: Things Fall Apart
Literary Period: Classical
Author: Chinua Achebe
Authorial Information: Chinua Achebe was born and grew up in the Ibo village of Ogidi when Nigeria was still a British colony. Although Achebe won a scholarship to study medicine, his love of literature and growing involvement with African nationalism changed his career. The nationalism movement after World War II brought with it a new sense of African self-awareness and confidence, and it occurred to Achebe that he and his fellow Africans might have their own stories to tell. Achebe’s insight made him question the colonial-era notion that African culture was inferior to the culture the European colonist had grafted onto Africa, usually be force. As a gesture defining his roots. Achebe dropped his first name, Albert, which his parents had given him in honor of Queen Victoria’s husband.
In 1958, while working for the Nigerian Broadcasting Company, Achebe published his first novel, Things Fall Apart. The novel tells of and Ibo man whose personal life is ruined as a result of colonial pressures. This was the first of three novels that Achebe wrote to explore the Ibo past and the destructive effects of colonialism on African cultures and on individual Africans.
In 1960, the new nation of Nigeria, with over two hundred ethnic groups, was not a unified country. The four largest ethnic groups, the Ibo, Hausa, Fuliani, and Yoruba, were constantly fighting for land and power. Many of the frictions originated in the groups’ very different religions, languages, and outlook on life. Eventually, in 1967, things fell apart. Achebe was one of the many Ibo who unsuccessfully tries to secede from Nigeria and establish a new republic called Biafra. In the worst months of the bloody, three-year civil war, about twelve thousand people, mostly children, starved to death each day. Overall, somewhere between one million and two million people died-many of them from disease and hunger. Several stories in Achebe’s story collection Girls at War (1973) describe the tragedies and horrors of these years of civil war.
Chinua Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart because nobody had written a story like his before. Achebe wrote this book to tell of his side of the story; because he can relate to Okonkwo, the main character, because Achebe was an Ibo group member also.
Author’s unique style: Achebe uses irony, folklore and customs as his unique styles. Achebe uses irony when Okonkwo says, “I will sacrifice one of my children to save this village,” then Obieraka says, “ well why don’t you sacrifice yourself then.” This is ironic because to save the village, Okonkwo kills on of the messengers and instead of being killed by the District Commissioner, Okonkwo hangs himself. Achebe uses folklore when someone is trying to make a point to someone. This happens when Uchendu tells a story to make Okonkwo not hit his wives. Achebe uses the Ibo tribe’s customs as a way to tell the reader of how the tribe lived. This happens when Achebe tells of the spirits who come out to give someone a trial.
Setting: The setting is the early 20th century in Nigeria. The social environment is the English colonization in the African tribes.
Theme: A theme of Things Fall Apart is, “In life, time changes everything.” This is true in Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo had a good life until the British came and changed everything about their past ways of life. As time progressed, Okonkwo became madder as each day passed about how the British were treating them. His temper reached it’s climax when he killed a messenger of the District Commissioner.
Okonkwo-the main character. Okonkwo’s motivation is to keep the British from taking away the Ibo’s culture. His outcome is that he kills a messenger and then hangs himself.
Unoka-Okonkwo’s dad. Unoka’s motivation is to just make enough money to keep him and his family alive, and then be lazy for the rest of the time. Unoka’s outcome is that he dies, heavily in debt to many people.
Nwoye-Okonkwo’s first son. Nwoye’s motivation is to rebel against Okonkwo because Okonkwo pushes him too hard. Nwoye’s outcome is that he becomes a Christian and leaves his family to go to a Christian school.
Ezinma- Okonkwo’s most loved daughter. Ezinma’s motivation is to keep Okonkwo happy because she is the only thing that keeps Okonkwo happy. Ezinma’s outcome is that she and the rest of Okonkwo’s family are left to survive without Okonkwo.
Obieraka- Okonkwo’s best friend. Obieraka’s motivation is to help Okonkwo during his exile and keeps Okonkwo informed of what is happening in the village. The novel does not state what Obieraka’s outcome is.
Uchendu-Okonkwo’s uncle. Uchendu’s motivation is to help Okonkwo during his exile. He gives Okonkwo moral support and keeps Okonkwo in line. Uchendu’s outcome is unclear because the reader does not hear from him again after Okonkwo leaves the village.
District Commissioner- the “sheriff” of the village. The District Commissioner’s motivation is to make sure everybody in the village goes by the British rules. If these rules are not followed then the Commissioner would give a punishment. He is usually unfair because he has no understanding of the Ibo culture. The District Commissioner’s outcome is unclear because the book does not tell what happens to the other characters after Okonkwo dies.
Mr. Brown- The “good” British guy. Mr. Brown’s motivation is to understand the Ibo culture and try to make the villagers want to become Christian instead of making them become Christian. Mr. Brown’s outcome is that he gets transferred to another village.
Mr. Smith-The “bad” British guy. Mr. Smith’s motivation is to make the villagers follow his rules only and to forget their past. He has several confrontations with Okonkwo and decides to write a book on the villagers. Mr. Smith’s outcome is that Okonkwo kills one of his messengers.
Tragedy-A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, a moral weakness, or an inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances. Things Fall Apart is a tragedy because Okonkwo dies because of his tragic flaw, his temper.
Tragic Hero-the main character in a book that suffers sorrow as a result of his tragic flaw. Okonkwo is a tragic hero because he kills the District Commissioner’s messenger due to his tragic flaw, his temper.
Foreshadowing-To present an indication or a suggestion of beforehand; presage. Obieraka foreshadows Okonkwo’s death when he asks Okonkwo if he will kill himself to save the village.
Flashback- A literary or cinematic device in which an earlier event is inserted into the normal chronological order of a narrative. An example of foreshadowing in Things Fall Apart is when Okonkwo has flashbacks of his father.
Word Count: 1140