Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe

Facts about the author

Chinua Achebe was born in Ogidi, in Eastern Nigeria, in 1930. His father was one of the early Ibo converts to Christianity who was evangelist and teacher in the Church Missionary Society’s village school. Chinua attended his father’s school and have started to learn English at about the age of eight, went on to Government College, in 1944. In 1948 he entered University College and began to study medicine in Ibadan where he graduated in 1953. After teaching for a few months, he joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in 1954 as a Talks Producer and rose, by way of being Head of the Talks Section (1957) and Controller, Estern Region (1959), to become Director of External Services in 1961. His job took him on long journeys about Nigeria and, as he drove, his mind was busy reviewing the history and life of his people and casting this mass of unique material in the classical fictional moulds he had studied at university. This resulted, in 1958, in the publication of his first novel, Things fall Apart. It was an immediate success and he won the Margaret Wrong Prize.No Longer At Ease was published in 1960 and won the Nigerian National Trophy. Arrow of God came out in 1964 and his fourth, and so far his last, novel, A Man of the People, appeared in 1966.

With the massacre of the Ibos in Northern Nigeria in 1966 and the beginning of the Nigerian Troubles, he resigned from the Broadcasting Corporation and moved back to Eastern Nigeria. During the civil war, he taught for two years in the United States. The Biafran conflict and his experiences with the war have had a profound effect on Achebe. He wrote about these effects in several essays(Girls at War 1971, a collection of short stories which concern the war). Now he wanted to show how an experience with such a tragic war can change one’s attitude to life.

In a series of interviews with Jerome Brooks, Chinua Achebe says the following about Things Fall Apart:

“[It]is a kind of fundamental story of my condition that demanded to be heard….I believe in the complexity of the human story and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say, this is it. Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing….This is the way I think the world’s stories should be told—from many different perspectives.”

Chapter-wise Summary

Chapters 1-7 of Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

TEXT DESCRIPTION: Chapters 1-7 of Things Fall Apart establish the major characters of the text and their motivations. They also introduce the Igbo culture and themes of the novel. The novel’s style is easy to read but will present challenges to students because of the cultural experiences Achebe presents. Students will need to discuss and explore the meaning conveyed by the information provided.

TEXT FOCUS: Students read and discuss key ideas and details, including the development of Okonkwo’s character and internal conflicts and various themes. Okonkwo’s character is illustrated through a narrator’s limited omniscient point of view.

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Chapters 8-11 of Things Fall Apart,
Chinua Achebe

TEXT DESCRIPTION: Chapters 8-11 of Things Fall Apart continue to develop Okonkwo’s character and his conflicting motivations. As his character develops, students begin to understand how the Igbo culture causes some of his internal conflicts and how individuals are shaped by the culture in which they live. Okonkwo’s relationship with Ezinma, his favourite daughter emerges and shapes some of the themes of the novel while Nwoye, his son, develops into a more complex conflicted character.

TEXT FOCUS: The first two pages of Chapter 8 (Okonkwo’s reaction to Ikemefuna’s death) and the first paragraph of Chapter 9 are suitable for students to summarize and to continue completing the graphic organizer begun in Lesson 2.

Encourage students to consider why Achebe might include the events of these chapters. Focus students on discussing and analyzing in writing how Okonkwo’s complex reactions to Ikemefuna’s death enhance their understanding of his character: How does Okonkwo’s reaction reveal his internal conflicts and develop a theme established in Chapters 1-7? Students might be confused by the events surrounding Ezinma’s illness. Support their understanding by asking them to consider what Okonkwo’s relationship with Ezinma reveals about Okonkwo’s character and the Igbo culture. In addition, ask them to explain how Okonkwo’s reaction to Ekwefi’s concern develops a theme established in Chapters 1-7.

Chapters 12-13 of Things Fall Apart,
Chinua Achebe

TEXT DESCRIPTION: Chapters 12 and 13 of Things Fall Apart build to a climactic event in which Okonkwo’s usually impotent gun discharges and kills a tribe member. The symbolic nature of this event and the resulting exile are powerful methods for helping students understand the complexity of the Igbo culture. The excerpt from The Paris Review illustrates Achebe’s views on the interactions between character, plot, and theme.

TEXT FOCUS: Students may impose Western ideology onto the Igbo people, which can result in confusion about Okonkwo’s accident and resulting banishment. The interview serves as a way to better understand the Igbo people so students can make meaning of the events in these chapters.

Chapters 14-19 of Things Fall Apart,
Chinua Achebe

TEXT DESCRIPTION: These chapters comprise Part 2 of Things Fall Apart, in which Okonkwo, his family, and his people begin to interact with European missionaries and colonizers. This section of the novel introduces the concepts of cultural interaction and collision.

TEXT FOCUS: Students examine the interactions between the Igbo people and the Europeans. Specifically, they consider both perspectives in order to explain the themes that Achebe establishes and develops in this section of the novel. Students use their understanding of the Igbo culture to analyze the cultural collisions from an objective point of view as they select the most critical scenes for analysis.

Chapters 20-25 of Things Fall Apart,
Chinua Achebe

TEXT DESCRIPTION: In Part 3 of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo returns from exile and experiences European domination firsthand, which results in his suicide in the final chapter. This section of the novel alternates between the Igbo and the European point of view, which students should be attentive to as they read. The poem “The Second Coming” is the source of the title of Things Fall Apart; Achebe uses the opening four lines of the poem as the epigraph of the novel and has discussed in interviews the texts’ relationship.

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TEXT FOCUS: While the novel predominantly presents the Igbo point of view, Part 3 presents the European point of view in several places, which should be studied in conjunction with “The Second Coming.” The poem captures the domination of European culture and the resulting dissolution of the Igbo culture illustrated in Part 3 of the novel.

Short Summary of Things Fall Apart

The novel Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe is about a small village in Nigeria, called Umuofia. The novel is divided into three chapters. At the end of the nineteen century, the Europeans came to West America where they tried to impose their culture and their religion to the Africans. All inhabitants of Umuofia belonged to the same clan which meant that they shared the same customs and helped each other. The whole village was very religious. However, they had their own religion because they believed in several gods. In the same way, the people lived isolated because they had no contact with the rest of the world. They were farmers and produced things such as palm oil, that they used to cook. One of the village’s leading person was Okonkwo. He really had a great influence on other people. However, the relationship to his son was difficult because he was scared that his son Nwoye would grow up like his grandfather Unoko who didn’t work hard enough. One day life in Umuofia changed completely. The Europeans came and destroyed the neighbour-village. At the first moment, the people were totally shocked by the white men. Then missionaries from Europe went to Africa because they want the Africans to become Christians. The white men worked very hard to persuade them. Consequently, more and more people were exploited by the white men and joined the new religion.

Okonkwo could not trust his eyes because now his ideas were not so important anymore. The white men gained more and more influence. The brought a new kind of government, built new courts and judged people who disobeyed the new laws. The missionaries built new churches, hospitals and now schools were started. It was a great thing for many inhabitants because they could learn to write and read. Apart from these facts the Europeans improved trading and Umuofia was getting rich. While the others were interested in the new religion or the new government Okonkwo tried to preserve his customs. Even his son joined Christianity and Okonkwo was left alone with his ideas. Only his best friend Obierika could understand him but he knew that there was no way out because the people only saw the good things the white men had brought. The white men spread control over the whole village. Okonkwo could not bear the pressure and decided to punish the white men for what they had done. He killed one chief official. Afterwards, he noticed that life would never be like in the old days. In his opinion, there was no other solution and he committed suicide.

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Main characters

Okonkwo
The principal character of Things Fall Apart is Okonkwo. In the beginning, he is a strong man who fights against things he doesn’t agree. Whenever he is angry and can’t get his words out quickly enough, he uses his fists. He has no patience with unsuccessful men because he can’t imagine being not successful. He is a wealthy farmer, has just married his third wife and he is a man of war that makes him one of the greatest men of his time. However, he also has faults but he is always too proud to admit that he is mistaken, which his clansmen see as a defect in his character. In all, on the good side, he id brave, hardworking and energetic but on the bad side, he is unbending and inflexible, unwilling to change his traditional way of life. He knows that the people of Umuofia will not fight with him. However, he can’t live with these people who have destroyed his world and consequently he chooses to commit suicide, the most shameful way to die for a man like he was.

Unoka
Unoka, his father, is the opposite of Okonkwo. He is weak, idle, improvident, unsuccessful and interested in the softer and more kindly aspects of life. Okonkwo tries as much as possible to be unlike his father. He is ashamed of Unoka.

Nwoye

Nwoye is like his grandfather which makes Okonkwo feel angry. He doesn’t want to have a son like his father. So he keeps beating Nwoye and exactly this is the wrong thing he does because Nwoye is very sensitive and begins to be afraid of his father. At first, he hesitates to join the Christians, but his father’s violence and opposition finally drive him away to attend the mission-school in Umuofia. The new religion gives some sort of answer to the problems that have troubled him before.

Obierika
Obierika is a man who thinks about things. He is a man who will obey the law but not blindly. Although he doesn’t know what to do about the established order of things when he feels it to be wrong, he nevertheless questions it. He sees how men’s faiths must adjust to new circumstances and not bring destruction by blind adherence to the old ways.

Theme

The main theme of Things Fall Apart is that of change and the effects on society. New ideas new ideas in religion, in law, in political, economic and social structure-have their effects on people. These effects have often been noticed in history, for example, when a country has changed its political system (as in revolution) or when an agriculture-based economy has changed to one based on industrialisation. Violence is often a result of such changes. The tragedy of Okonkwo is one expression of that violence. There must have been similar tragedies in history when similar characters have tried to oppose change.

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