Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

Year of Publication: 1958

Genre: Fiction

Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a sequel to his other two novels, No longer at Ease and Arrow of God which almost carries a single subject. Unlike the other two, already mentioned above, I actually studied Things Fall Apart as part of a course known as Masterpieces of African Literature while at school and as the name of the course suggests, Things Fall Apart is indeed a masterpiece and a classic.

Achebe begins the novel by telling about the prowess of the protagonist, Okonkwo. Okonkwo was well known throughout nine villages and even beyond and his fame had grown like a bush-fire in the harmattan. The story advances as Achebe draws a sharp difference between Okonkwo’s father Unoka and Okonkwo. The difference lay in the fact that Unoka had no titles in the village and he was lazy and improvident and a debtor. It was for these traits that Okonkwo came to hate his father because he found his father’s character as a shame to him and his clan.

As a young man of eighteen, Okonkwo had already brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Titles in Umuofia meant a great deal of power and showed the masculinity of men.

Because of Okonkwo’s fame and place in the village, he was asked by the elders of the village to be the caretaker of a young lad called Ikemefuna, who was sacrificed to the village of Umuofia by their neighbors to avoid war and bloodshed. Later, an unfortunate incident happened to Ikemefuna and so Okonkwo was banished from Umuofia to his mother’s homeland.

While Okonkwo was away, white men settled in Umuofia, they introduced a new religion and then a new government soon emerged. Many people fled to the new religion as a form of escape and within a short period, the new religion had grown and had become popular.

Okonkwo returned from his mother’s household with his family only to find out that things had changed so fast in Umuofia, that the new religion had come to win many souls of his own people. He sought the help of the opinion leaders in Umuofia to cut off the activities of the white men who had by then built a local church in their land. Would Okonkwo be successful in wiping away the white man?

My parting thoughts:

Okonkwo’s fame, I think, was mainly as a result of the fear of failure, the fear of his father’s failure informed him to be over-ambitious in life. It was this fear of failure that brought him fame throughout the nine villages and even beyond. However, his fall, was as a result of his rash temper.

Again and again, it was some of these traditional and cultural practices in Umuofia that gave way to the rise and settlement of the white government and the church. Certain acts like the banishment and the killing of twins were prevalent in Umuofia and the only refuge for the people was the Christian church established by the white man. The church gave the people a second chance and the same church frowned upon these practices as they believed was unacceptable in the eyes of God.

The church gave every member equal opportunities and saw everybody as equal in the sight of God. Okonkwo, having achieved so many titles in his life, feared that all too soon, everything he had worked so hard for would soon diminish and his titles would no longer be regarded by his own people.

I enjoyed reading this novel and would not hesitate to pick it up for a rereading at any given day and time. I loved Achebe’s use of proverbs as well. I recommend it to all and sundry.

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11 Responses to Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

  1. I know this one has been long in coming… I have waited for it.

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  2. amymckie says:

    I would second your recommendation! Such a great book. I really liked how it Okonkwo was so real. He was likable but not likable at the same time. Neither Okonkwo or the church were willing to work together or really understand each other.

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  3. rebeccareid says:

    I read and enjoyed this in high school (ten years ago). Time for a reread!

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    • Geosi says:

      Wow! Ten years ago must have been quite a long, long time but the thing with this book is that you always remember the story line no matter how many years ago you might have read it and I think you would agree with me. In fact, I have personally read it three times and I still enjoy it. Not a bad idea at all, should you pick it up for a reread!

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  4. […] Things Fall Apart by Chinua […]

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  5. Torgbui Michael says:

    I support your opinion on the book being a masterpiece. Indeed Things Fall Apart is one of Achebe’s masterpiece that he will forever be remembered for. For me what interests me most about the book is it universal appeal. It looks like anybody and on any continent could pick this book and read and easily identify with it, either in their own personal way or in recollection of a similar story of someone they know: someone who struggled to make it only to be doomed to their catastrophe and destruction through the inappropriate decisions they make. Okonkwo’s name in that book could be replaced with Gandhi and still make sense, with a Frank Chicane and still make a sense, a Chen Qimei and still make a sense and so many others. Another interesting thing about the book is the orientation with which Achebe gives it. Though having lived and experienced the irruption of whites in his village and their subsequent relegation of the African Igbo culture to the background, one will be tempted to believe that he will have shown some resentments to the white ideology in his writing. However, he took a very objective approach in retelling the history of Africa from the perspective of the African and showed no signs of bias towards the African course. I believe this quality endears him to both black, white, and Caucasian reading audience and hence the popularity of his book. He brings to life that the African and particularly the Igbo has a culture and history that unique.

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  6. […] have combated this by ‘re-storying’ their narrative, as post-colonial authors like Chinua Achebe have tried to when confronting imperial literature for ownership of their people’s traumatic […]

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  7. waweru says:

    it is a difficult book to review since it tells all and fulfills all faculties of writing.I think it has no equal.For Achebe to have come up with this masterpiece at that age is phenomenal.

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  8. http://www.srinethtv.com/

    Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe | Geosi Reads

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