Things Fall Apart

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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a story about personal beliefs and customs, and also a story about conflict. There is struggle between family, culture, and the religion of the Ibo, which is all brought on by a difference in personal beliefs and customs of the Igbo and the British. There are also strong opinions of the main character, Okonkwo. We are then introduced to the views of his village, Umuofia. We see how things fall apart when these beliefs and customs are confronted by those of the white missionaries.

The authors full name is, Albert Chinualumogu Achebe also known as Chinua, he was born on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria. He is a product of both native and European cultures. This has a great effect on the telling of the story. He attended Government College in Umuahia from 1944 to 1947 and University College in Ibadan from 1948 to 1953. He then received a B.A. from London University in 1953 and studied broadcasting at the British Broadcasting Corp. in London in 1956. He joined the Biafran Ministry of Information and represented Biafra as a diplomat. Since then, he has taught variously at the universities of Nigeria, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart partly in response to what he saw as inaccurate


characterizations of Africa and Africans by British authors. The book was published in 1958, he was 28 years old at the time. It was very successful and has sold over 2,000,000 copies, and has been translated into thirty languages. He has written a total of fifteen different books in his lifetime. He became a political activist in the late 1960's early 1970's.

Thirty years ago Chinua Achebe was one of the founders of this new style of literature, and over the years many critics have come to consider him the finest of the Nigerian novelists. His achievement, however, has not been limited to his continent. He is considered by many to be one of the best novelists now writing in the English language. In recent decades he has held a succession of teaching posts, notably a professorship at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

In Thing Fall Apart, we see a conflict early in the story between Okonkwo and his father, Unoka. "Okonkwo was ruled by one passion - to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness" (Achebe 13). Unoka was considered to be a failure. Okonkwo did not receive anything from his father and he had to start out with nothing. His goal "chi" in life was to obtain great wealth and to have many wives and children. The Ibo people considered these things signs of success. Yet, his greatest goal was his desire to become one of the powerful elders of the clan. It is Okonkwo's inner anger and bitterness over his father's failure that seemed to be the driving force behind everything he did in life. This was evident in the fact that he always felt as though he had to do what was manly and he hated weakness.


Just as Okonkwo did not want to be like his father, Nwoye did not want to be like Okonkwo. Nwoye possessed traits that Okonkwo did not such as gentleness, forgiveness, and acceptance. Okonkwo saw these as signs of weakness. "Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength" (Achebe 28). Okonkwo considered Nwoye to be lazy and wanted him to be a success like himself. "Okonkwo wanted his son to be a great farmer and a great man. . . . I will not have a son who cannot hold up his head in the gathering of the clan. I would sooner strangle him with my own hands" (Achebe 33). This is an example of the difference in personal beliefs among family.

The Igbo people had a very different religious lifestyle than what the British were used to here. Their culture was very different as well. They believed in polytheism (the...
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