Summary of Things Fall Apart in relation to the colonization of Africa

The novel Things Fall Apart is a novel based around the era before and during the “Scramble for Africa”, the occupational, divisional, and colonial era by Europe; which will be further explained in detail throughout this paper. This is a story of Okonkwo and the Umuofia clan in Nigeria during the imperialism of the Europeans. … Read more

Presentation of pre- & post-colonial Africa in Things Fall Apart/Anthills Of The Savannah

When analysing the manner in which Achebe presents pre-colonialism and post-colonialism, one must examine how society is presented is presented in both the pre-colonial novel of “Things Fall Apart” and the post-colonial novel of “Anthills Of The Savannah”. The Ibo society presented in “Things Fall Apart” was evidently flawed. This can be deducted from various … Read more

Father-son relationship in “Things fall apart” by Chinua Achebe

A father-son bond is essential and often complicated, son’s look at their fathers as role models, following in their footsteps. Alternatively, look at their fathers and want to be the opposition of them, deciding to cut them out their fathers from their lives completely. The novel “Things fall apart,” by Chinua Achebe, takes place in … Read more

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness & Achebe’s Things Fall Apart – when cultures collide

“The Blood-Dimmed Tide” of Dionysian Impulse “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst /Are full of passionate intensity” (Yeats). Historically, humans possess an abysmal track record regarding the results of cultural collision: genocide, slavery, the Crusades, imperialism. In the … Read more

‘An image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness’ by Chinua Achebe

In the essay, “An image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” Nigerian born professor Chinua Achebe outlines in the novel a respectable argument critical of certain parts in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Through the separation and critical over-analysis of certain parts and particular sentences, Achebe obviously and successfully declares his outlook … Read more

What is Chinua Achebe’s message in ‘Things Fall Apart’?

The novel Things Fall apart was written by Chinua Achebe. The genre of the novel is Historical Fiction. It was banned because the story uncovers the negative impacts of white-rule on Okonkwo’s little town, most expressively when he chooses to submit suicide as opposed to being attempted in a frontier court. Considered broadly in Africa, … Read more

Fighting stereotypes in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Imperialism is defined as “a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force”. Imperialism and the notion of being “civilized” are quite a popular topic when discussed by academics, especially when it comes to Africa and African Societies. In the modern world it is quite common to classify others as … Read more

Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart – Formation of Personalities Throughout the Generations

One of the many accomplishments the Nigerian, Chinua Achebe achieved with his famous for his novel things fall apart is his relentless expression of the tribal life of Nigeria before and after the arrival of Colonialism this book was first published in 1958 two years before Nigeria declared independence from the UK, and avoids the … Read more

Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart (letter suggesting inclusion in syllabus)

Dear RI English Head of Department, I am writing this letter to justify my view of why Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart should be included in the English literature curriculum for students in the school. Things Fall Apart is a Greek tragedy, where the main character’s moral flaws bring him to ruin in a … Read more

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

In this fictional literary novel, the protagonist struggles with inner emotions that cause aggressiveness and skepticism. What is not perfectly clear is whether or not the main character, Okonkwo, wars more with himself or the White people that have brought their government and insane, seemingly hypocritical, religion with them. With that I will break down … Read more

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

G.D. Killam wrote: So much has been written about the anthropological and Sociological significance of Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God – Their evocation of traditional nineteenth- and earlier twentieth – century Ibo village life-… that the overall excellence of these books as pieces of fiction, as works of art, has been obscured.42 Very … Read more

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

The concept of global history is impossible to define without consideration of countless cultural collisions since the dawn of human history. Exchanges and clashes of culture grew in frequency upon the discovery of the Americas at the close of the fifteenth century and in importance during periods of colonization in North and South America and … Read more

Things Fall Apart

A tragic hero is someone of superior qualities and status, who suffers a reversal of fortune due to major character flaws. In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the book follows the main character, Okonkwo, but it includes other important characters such as Unoka, Nwoye, Obierika, and Ikemefuna. Okonkwo is a wealthy and respected warrior … Read more

About Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian classical novelist, poet and critic born on 6 November 1930 in Ogidi, south-eastern Nigeria. He grew up in contact with both Christian and traditional Ibo teachings as a result of his father working as the catechist for a Missionary church in Eastern Nigeria (ref). Achebe completed his studies in English Literature at the University College in Ibadan and later moved on to become a producer at the Nigeria Broadcasting cooperation in 1953 (ref). Achebe’s first book, Things Fall Apart is set in the precolonial period in southern Nigeria in an area predominantly inhabited by the Ibo people. The book follows the story of Okonkwo, who was born to a wastrel of a father. Okonkwo became a respectable member of the Umuofia village and later appointed as an essential leader within his clan. The book documents his tragic story as he wrestles with staying rooted in his traditions and culture as well as his struggles against foreign invasion by the whites. Achebe is successful in addressing key concepts which range from Ibo culture to the exploration of African governance, family and precolonial spirituality that encompassed the lives of those living in this region in Nigeria. This review will predominantly focus on culture through the patriarchal lens and the impact of colonisation on indigenous Africans as per Achebe’s narrative.

Achebe brilliantly brings to the fore the different cultural practices employed by the people of Umuofia. A noticeable theme in the book is the amalgamation of the patriarchal system into Ibo culture. Patriarchy can be referred to as a systemic organisation based around the supremacy and subordination of women (Dar et al 2017, pg. 1). The deployment of patriarchy is evident through the dominance of masculine narratives and experiences throughout the book. To illustrate this Achebe talks about Okonkwo’s strong features and success his success and suggests this this is evident due to the fact that he has three wives (Achebe 1953, pg.91). Male wealth and the tribe’s wealth are measured in terms of material possessions suggesting the inherent commodification of women as mere assets to the Ibo men and community. Interestingly upon consideration of Achebe’s background and the time he writes the novel conversations about women’s access to contraceptive pills had just gained momentum. Achebe’s exposure to the West and discourse around women’s rights perhaps would have prompted him to provide a more balanced narrative in his work. However, the opposite happens. Achebe maintains the norm, and this can be interpreted as an assertion of his personal views on gender and the patriarchy ( . As a male, he might have been blinded by the patriarchal culture that he grew up in. It is arguable to some extent that Achebe’s masculine dominated narrative is a product of his privilege due to the fact that he grew up in this very patriarchal system. However, Achebe might be maintaining this narrative to draw attention to the injustices that happened to women in precolonial Nigeria.

The violent nature of the patriarchy is exposed when Okonkwo beats his wife Ojiugo during peace week (Achebe 1953, pg.21). It is important to recognise the language Achebe uses. By centring acts of violence and placing them in close proximity to peace works to reveal his intention with this anecdote. It becomes clear that domestic violence is justified throughout the year except for this one week. This contributes to the idea that women are subjects of their male counterparts, highlighting the obstacles women faced during this time.

Secondly, governance in Umuofia is largely influenced by spirituality. Umuofia was a village known for its potent magic and medicine (Achebe, 1953, pg. 8). The centrality of African spirituality plays a significant role in decision making as it did for the Europeans with the Catholic Church. Consultation of oracles laid the foundations for morality and helped build a robust value system for the people of Umuofia. Achebe demonstrates this in the account where Okonkwo beats his wife. A priest intervenes and holds Okonkwo accountable for actions as he declares the evil that Okonkwo has committed against the goddess of the earth (Achebe 1953, pg. 22). It is interesting to see the interplay between indigenous spirituality and forms of maintaining justice and peace. In this case, Okonkwo was fined a hundred cowry shells, a female goat, a hen and a length of cloth (Achebe 1953, pg. 22). Spirituality, therefore, is a means of governance was used to achieve justice when conflicts arose. Achebe sustains an Afrocentric perspective as he explores ancient spiritual ceremonies in the book. He is careful not to paint a negative or evil picture of these indigenous practices, and he does the same when he discusses Christianity. This is to say that perhaps Achebe’s upbringing in Eastern Nigeria as well as under the Christian church cultivated an appreciation for both religious practices.

The book takes a tragic turn when Okonkwo accidentally kills a boy during Ezeudu’s funeral. As a consequence of this, Okonkwo is exiled to Mbanta. During this time Onkonwo continues with his life living near his mother’s youngest brother’s stead. Okonkwo spends the next two years undisturbed and working on his farms before Obierika arrives with news of the arrival of a “white man riding an iron horse” (Achebe 1953, pg., 97). This marks the beginning of Okonko’s struggles against the colonialism in an attempt to keep his culture and traditions alive. Unfortunately, Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, became indoctrinated into the Christian faith. An important theme runs through this anecdote as we can reflect Okonkwo’s father. Okonkwo sees Nwoye’s assimilation as perhaps failure of his fatherhood and reflects to feeling like his father was a failure. This arguably is what fuels Okonkwo’s rigid stance towards the white missionaries’ new forms of religion. Nwoye embracing the new religion and altogether leaving behind his family and all their tradition and cultures shows how destructive colonisation was. It fully encapsulates the depths of the cultural erasure as Mr Kiaga one of the African missionaries urged the Ibo people to do away with their old ways by shaving their unkempt hair (Achebe 1953, pg. 112). The coming of the white man symbolically stands for the rejection of ancient spirituality, the loss Umuofian family hood as people ran away from their families to be with the Christian missionaries, the death of Umuofian oral culture as new forms of education was introduced.

Finally, the novel concludes with Okonkwo taking his own life juxtaposing the beginning of the novel, where he is an influential, charismatic person. As his character develops throughout the novel, it is clear that the fear of failure is what is crippling Okonkwo. His death signifies the death of the Ibo way of life during the precolonial times as he is one of the few characters in the book who are devoted to keeping the culture alive. The white man has’ put a knife on the things that held us together, and we have fallen apart’ (Achebe 1953, pg.125)


Writing an essay on ‘Things Fall Apart’: key topics for discussion

  1. The Role of Religion: Achebe’s novel examines how the Christian faith clashes with traditional Igbo beliefs and customs. Explore how this conflict shapes the novel and its characters.
  2. Colonialism and Power Dynamics: How does colonialism affect the Igbo people? Consider how the power dynamics between the British and the Igbo shape the events and characters in the book.
  3. Gender Roles and Patriarchy: Things Fall Apart presents a detailed picture of the gender roles and patriarchy of traditional Igbo society. Analyze how this system of beliefs affects the characters and plot.
  4. Character Development: How does protagonist Okonkwo’s journey of growth and change shape the novel? Consider how other characters’ development reflects the changes occurring in the Igbo culture.
  5. Cultural Identity: How does Achebe use the novel to explore the themes of cultural identity and belonging? Consider how these issues are addressed in the novel and how they affect the characters.