Things Fall Apart: With Related Readings

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At the end of the nineteenth century, the Igbo people of West Africa faced a formidable enemy. Queen Victoria of England had claimed their land as part of the British Empire, and soon the British imperial forces would conquer them and -- with European law, religion, and material goods -- change Igbo life forever. Okonkwo is a clan leader of the Igbo village of Umuofia. Known as the "Roaring Flame" for his prowess in war, he has built his own fortune and is considered one of the greatest men of his time. Okonkwo ...
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Overview

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Igbo people of West Africa faced a formidable enemy. Queen Victoria of England had claimed their land as part of the British Empire, and soon the British imperial forces would conquer them and -- with European law, religion, and material goods -- change Igbo life forever. Okonkwo is a clan leader of the Igbo village of Umuofia. Known as the "Roaring Flame" for his prowess in war, he has built his own fortune and is considered one of the greatest men of his time. Okonkwo attributes his success to his own inflexible will. But in this new fight, that blind determination will bring about Okonkwo's downfall. This complete study edition of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart includes information about the history of Nigeria and the culture of the Igbo, as well as questions, writing ideas, and projects. Related readings are included to give you new perspectives.

A classic of modern African writing, this is the tale of what happens to tribal customs and old ways when white man comes.

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Editorial Reviews

Readers Catalog
Achebe's most famous novel brilliantly portrays the impact of colonialism on a traditional Nigerian village at the turn of the century. Its hero, Obi Okonkwo, epitomizes both the nobility and the rigidity of the traditional culture.
Sacred Fire

Things Fall Apart is one of the most widely read African novels ever published. It is written by one of Nigeria’s leading novelists, Chinua Achebe. Set in the Ibo village of Umuofia, Things Fall Apart recounts a stunning moment in African history&#8212its colonization by Britain. The novel, first published in 1958, has by today sold over 8 million copies, been translated into at least forty-five languages, and earned Achebe the somewhat misleading and patronizing title of "the man who invented African literature." It carefully re-creates tribal life before the arrival of Europeans in Africa, and then details the jarring changes brought on by the advent of colonialism and Christianity.

The book is a parable that examines the colonial experience from an African perspective, through Okonkwo, who was "a strong individual and an Igbo hero struggling to maintain the cultural integrity of his people against the overwhelming power of colonial rule." Okonkwo is banished from the community for accidentally killing a clansman and is forced to live seven years in exile. He returns to his home village, only to witness its disintegration as it abandons tradition for European ways. The book describes the simultaneous disintegration of Okonkwo and his village, as his pleas to his people not to exchange their culture for that of the English fall on deaf ears.

The brilliance of Things Fall Apart is that it addresses the imposition of colonization and the crisis in African culture caused by the collapse of colonial rule. Achebe prophetically argued that colonial domination and the culture it left in Africa had such a stranglehold on African peoples that its consequences would haunt African society long after colonizers had left the continent.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Achebe's powerful critique of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as a racist mirror of Eurocentric attitudes leads off this challenging collection of essays on art, literature and social issues. The famed Nigerian novelist ( Things Fall Apart ) views literature as a medium that can help Africa regain a belief in itself to replace a posture of self-abasement instilled by its traumatic historical encounter with the West. Tributes to novelists Amos Tutuola and Kofi Awoonor, as well as discerning appraisals of writers such as V. S. Naipaul and James Baldwin, reflect his belief in the power of fiction to give us a ``handle on reality.'' Overall, these concise essays deliver a forceful commentary on Afro-American life and letters. Summing up Nigeria's recent sociopolitical history as ``a snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory,'' Achebe calls active participation in the political process a prerequisite for his country's, and Africa's, regeneration. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Because the Nigerian novelist Achebe usually writes in English, his essays are informed by a sense of encounter between Africa and Europe. In this collection Achebe attacks patronizing Western views of African culture with gusto. Focusing on the role of the writer, he considers literature--written and oral--as a social force. As literary theory, the prophetic, moralizing kind of criticism Achebe favors would need more stringent argument and more careful dissection of opposing views. Beyond that, libraries holding his earlier book, Morning Yet on Creation Day (o.p.), will already have five of the best essays here. Still, the present title has obvious value for African studies collections. Also, since Achebe's novels are frequently assigned in English courses, students might find helpful background here.-- Donald Ray, Mercy Coll. Lib., Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
School Library Journal
YA-- Gathered together are 20 short stories written between 1980-1991. They are divided by region: five stories from Southern Africa; two from Central Africa; five from East Africa; two from Northern Africa; and six from West Africa. Region is important for, in many cases, the issues of the area are reflected in the selections. As an example, those from South Africa use racism as a major theme. Several have strong maternal figures struggling to provide for their families under intolerable burdens. While many of the authors are new, there are some well-established names. Nadine Gordimer's ``Amnesty'' beautifully describes the harshness of life in South Africa. The writing is mature, and the themes and moods are many, ranging from mystical to magical to supernatural to realistic. This anthology is a worthwhile addition to any library collection serving YAs.-- Pat Royal, Crossland High School, Camp Springs, MD
The Readers Catalog
Achebe's most famous novel brilliantly portrays the impact of colonialism on a traditional Nigerian village at the turn of the century. Its hero, Obi Okonkwo, epitomizes both the nobility and the rigidity of the traditional culture.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface
Chinua Achebe: A Biographical Note
Chinua Achebe and the Invention of African Literature
Igbo Culture and History
Principal Characters in the Novel
Glossary of Words and Phrases Used in the Text
Suggestions for Further Reading
Things Fall Apart 1
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Reading Group Guide

About the Book:It is the express purpose of this guide to aid your group in reading, discussing, and more fully enjoying this illuminating work. It provides you with new perspectives on the work and hopefully provides you with new avenues for your conversations.Discussion Questions: Question: The Ibo religious structure consists of chi—the personal god—and many other gods and goddesses. What advantages and disadvantages does such a religion provide when compared with your own? Question: The text includes many original African terms and there is a glossary provided. Do you find that this lends atmospheric authenticity, thus bringing you closer to the work? Do you find it helpful? Question: There is an issue here of fate versus personal control over destiny. For example, Okonkwo's father is sometimes held responsible for his own actions, while at other times he is referred to as ill-fated and a victim of evil-fortune. Which do you think Okonkwo believes is true? What do you think Achebe believes is true? What do you believe? Question: The threads of the story are related in a circular fashion, as opposed to a conventional linear time pattern. What effect does this impose on the tale of Ikemefuma? What effect does it have on the story of Ezinma? Question: The villagers believe—or pretend to believe—that the "Supreme Court" of the nine egwugwu are ancestral spirits. In fact, they are men of the village in disguise. What does this say about the nature of justice in general, and in this village in particular? Question: Our own news media pre-programs us to view the kind of culture clash represented here as being purely racial in basis. Does Achebe's work impress as being primarily concerned with black versus white tensions? If not, what else is going on here? Question: Certain aspects of the clan's religious practice, such as the mutilation of a dead child to prevent its spirit from returning, might impress us as being barbaric. Casting an honest eye on our own religious practices, which ones might appear barbaric or bizarre to an outsider? Question: In an essay entitled "The Novelist as Teacher," Achebe states: "Here then is an adequate revolution for me to espouse—to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement" (Hopes and Impediments, p. 44). In what ways do you feel that this novel places Achebe closer to the fulfillment of this noble aspiration? Question: Nature plays an integral role in the mythic and real life of the Ibo villagers, much more so than in our own society. Discuss ways in which their perception of animals—such as the cat, the locust, the python—differ from your own, and how these different beliefs shape our behavior. Question: The sacrifice of Ikemefuma could be seen as being a parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus. The event also raises a series of questions. Ikemefuma and the villagers that are left behind are told that he is "going home" (p. 58). Does this euphemism for dying contain truth for them? Do they believe they are doing him a favor? Why do they wait three years, him and Okonkwo's family to think of him as a member of the family? Finally, Okonkwo, "the father," allows the sacrifice to occur as God presumably allowed Christ's sacrifice, with no resistance. How can one accept this behavior and maintain love for the father or God? Question: Of Ezinma, Okonkwo thinks: "She should have been a boy" (p. 64). Why is it necessary to the story that Okonkwo's most favored child be a girl? Question: Of one of the goddesses, it is said: "It was not the same Chielo who sat with her in the market...Chielo was not a woman that night" (p. 106). What do you make of this culture where people can be both themselves and also assume other personas? Can you think of any parallels in your own world? Question: There are many proverbs related during the course of the narrative. Recalling specific ones, what function do you perceive these proverbs as fulfilling in the life of the Ibo? What do you surmise Achebe's purpose to be in the inclusion of them here? Question: While the traditional figure of Okonkwo can in no doubt be seen as the central figure in the tale, Achebe chooses to relate his story in the third person rather than the first person narrative style. What benefits does he reap by adopting this approach? Question: Okonkwo rejects his father's way and is, in turn, rejected by Nwoye. Do you feel this pattern evolves inevitably through the nature of the father/son relationship? Or is there something more being here than mere generational conflict? Question: The lives of Ikemefuma and Okonkwo can be deemed parallel to the extent that they both have fathers whose behavior is judged unacceptable. What do you think the contributing factors are to the divergent paths their fate takes them on as a result of their respective fathers' shadows? Question: The title of the novel is derived from the William Butler Yeats poem entitled The Second Coming, concerned with the second coming of Christ. The completed line reads: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." What layers of meaning are discernible when this completed line is applied to the story? Question: The District Commissioner is going to title his work The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Niger (p. 209). What do you interpret from this to be his perception of Okonkwo and the people of Umuofia? And what do you imagine this augurs in the ensuing volumes in Achebe's trilogy of Nigerian life?
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