Things Fall Apart (African Writers Series)

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Overview

This expanded edition of Chinua Achebe's first novel portrays the collision of African and European cultures in an Igbo village.

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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Things Fall Apart: A Novel

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Overview

This expanded edition of Chinua Achebe's first novel portrays the collision of African and European cultures in an Igbo village.

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

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

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.

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.
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

  • ISBN-13: 9780435905255
  • Publisher: Heinemann Education NZ
  • Publication date: 11/25/1996
  • Series: African Writers Series
  • Edition description: EXPANDED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 206
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Chinua Achebe was born in 1930 in the village of Ogidi in Eastern Nigeria. After studying medicine and literature at the University of Ibadan, he went to work for the Nigerian broadcasting company in Lagos. Things Fall Apart, his first novel was published in 1958. It sold over 2,000,000 copies, and has been translated into 30 languages. It was followed by No Longer at Ease, then Arrow of God (which won the first New Statesman Jock Campbell Prize), then A Man of the People (a novel dealing with post-independence Nigeria). Achebe has also written short stories and children's books, and Beware Soul Brother, a book of his poetry, won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1972.Achebe has been at the Universities of Nigeria, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and among the many honours he has received are the award of a Fellowship of the Modern Language Association of America, and doctorates from the Universities of Stirling, Southampton and Kent. He followed Heinrich Boll, the Nobel prizewinner, as the second recipient of the Scottish Art's Council Neil Gunn Fellowship. In 1987, he was recognised in Nigeria with the Nigerian National Merit Award - the country's highest award for intellectual achievement.
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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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 435 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(148)

4 Star

(129)

3 Star

(75)

2 Star

(44)

1 Star

(39)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 437 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Classic Tale.

    Things Fall Apart is incredible. Not only is it a story of the encroaching British civilization and how the villagers adapt or do not adapt to the changing ways, Things Fall Apart is about the inner workings of a family. Father and son are very different and very similair at the same time. The father is old school while the son embraces the new way. What is intriguing is the society that is portrayed; a society that is male dominant. However the priestess is not to be disobeyed. Things Fall Apart would make a good reading for students.

    14 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2007

    Story or Documentary?

    This book had no plot. Most of the first part had absolutely no relevance to what little storyline there was. The thin plot that finally developed ended up being rushed at the end. The entire thing with the spirits was confusing for me - were they real, or is Okonkwo just crazy? Personally, I hated Okonkwo simply because his story was so boring. I couldn't really care less what happened to him - I was never able to connect with him. I think this story would have done better as a documentary or encyclopedia entry, because that is basically what it is, and it is a plague to high school students everywhere.

    9 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2005

    An awful apologetic for a savage culture

    This is a story that still believes that the idea of the 'noble savage' is correct. Okonkwo is a sexist angry man who is so hung up on his savage 'traditions.' The missionaries who come are not much better, with their misguided religion. All in all, a very depressing read that tries to make the reader feel sorry for Okonkwo. Instead, you end up hating him. And they give this to high school students.

    5 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2012

    school reading

    A very uneventful book. My IB advanced Language Arts class was forced to read it during the summer. I am an avid reader and can read a book in a day if I like it. Needless to say it took me a whole three months to finish it and even then I skipped around and read Sparknotes for some of it. I felt like I had to read the same sentence three or four times because my eyes kept getting out of focus and my mind would drift.

    4 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2010

    Really Very Good

    This was a very good book about changes and about the clashes of cultures. It was well written, had a very good plot, and I think that Okonkwo's character led to his responses to all the things that happened in his life, things he could not change if he wanted to, almost like he was cornered and lashing out to preserve whatever values he had towards his culture and family. Also, I had to re-read a couple pages to get who was who, but foreign names is really a shallow factor in deciding whether or not a book is worth reading. If you start a book with that kind of mentality, no wonder you can't get the point, you don't really even want to understand it even a little. That's the entire point of the references in the back, to help you understand what is going on. If you are willing to reread some parts, learn quite a bit about previous cultures, and be open to deeper meanings, this classic book is recommended for you.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    A decent book.

    Things Fall Apart is a fine book in all of its aspects, it follows the story of Okonkwo and how he thinks he must, ironically, prove how strong he is by showing that he does not care. It certainly does a nice job of connecting you to the character, you actually care about what the protagonist is doing, but I just could not find any way that this could connect to my own life and that is what I believe this book was trying to accomplish. If the objective wasn't to have you relate to the main character than it was to show how religious differences can cause conflict. The story follows Okonkwo as he seems to go through a life that wants to make him as miserable as possible. One of the cruelest jokes in my opinion was when Okonkwo was finally beginning to care for someone they are tragically killed and Okonkwo has to witness and take part in his death. This is the point where I start to feel distanced from the main character. Of course you can try to connect to the villagers in the area that Okonkwo is in, but I could not do that either as I found no relevance to my life and the tribal groups. What I do like is that the author actually cares about the side characters and everyone has their own unique personality and character trait, making them actually seem like they are real. I also like the way that the author presents the story, the story has a nice pacing to it and does not seem like it is just filler and is slogging to the end, but the story does not also seem like it has to cram as much energy and action as it possibly could. That is the kind of format I like my books to be in. What I dislike is why the author felt the need that the reader should have reasons to dislike the main character (because the author could not seriously expect us to connect to a man like Okonkwo). The major message of this story seems to be not to blindly follow what "the rest of the guys" are doing. The author seems to stress this by having Okonkwo have something horrible happen to him every time he listens to his clan. This book certainly does have appeal but the book is just not for me. I would still recommend the book to others however because it seems that people either love the book to death or believe that the book was nothing special.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2010

    Things Fall Apart themes, summary, and review...

    Things Fall Apart was a great novel to read. This book is about major changes not only happening to one man and his life, but also the village that he lives in. The main character, Okonkwo, is a very determined man that tries to basically do the opposite of his father, which includes being masculine in everything he does and trying to make his son do the same. His father was a scared, lazy man in the village who did virtually nothing productive for himself, his family, or the village. In Things Fall Apart, there is African culture on the verge of change after some newcomers arrive in the village. This book raises the question of whether to accept the new changes or stick to the same old tradition in African culture. Likes/Dislikes - I liked the ironic situations in the book that mixed things up and suprised me a bit. - I disliked that the story did not have a real plot to read about. I feel like it was more of a documentary of African culture. I do recommend this novel to read. This is not only a great way to learn about some of African culture, it is overall a great book to read with ironic situations occuring throughout the book.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Required Reading

    I ordered this book as required reading for a class I am teaching. The basic story line is easy to understand, but the themes are excellent for discussing in a Senior High School Level class.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    Great novel

    Amazing story that makes you rethink your stances on religious issues

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2011

    Booooooooooooo

    Hate it

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2011

    Why things falls apart is so good

    The book was good. i did not think that i would like it. Only reason i might have thought that was because i had to read it for school. So it was kind of forced on me but then i realy got into the book i wanted to se what happens to him and i really started to like reading about their native ways. And that is what i think made the book so good was that it had someting that a lot of books that i read do not have and that is why i think this book is a good book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2010

    boring

    read it for school. totally hated it

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2014

    Things Fall Apart is a relatively uneventful story consisting of

    Things Fall Apart is a relatively uneventful story consisting of unlikable and unrelatable characters. I had to read this over the summer before sophomore year, and getting through the first 50 pages was like torture. Not to spoil anything, but the ending totally sucks. 




    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    Jess

    Hi! Im jess

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2012

    Great story, well told

    This is a great story, and is told masterfully by a very skilled storyteller. He does a great job of taking us into the corrupt world of Nigeria, helping to shed a light on why things are the way they are. Love this book.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2011

    Very poorly written

    Very choppy. Grammatical errors. No story line whatsoever. Boring. Written in circles. Not in chronological order. Very confusing. Full of insignificant details. Characters are poorly developed. The only reason I finished it is because it is my summer reading and I hated it with a fiery passion.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    Amazing!!!

    changes the way you look at certain things in life!! favorite book ever!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An Informative and Interesting Book

    An interesting reflection on the culture and life of the people of Nigerian through the prism of this work of fiction. Though not always an easy read, it is informative and most worthy of read because ultimately it helps us to understand another people and their life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2010

    Not The Best - But Interesting

    'Things Fall Apart' was unlike any book I have ever read. The plot, country, and characters were totally original, at least comparing those from previous reads. The setting of the book is in Nigeria and from what I understood, the time frame was around the slave trade period. Chinua Achebe has a vivid imagination and has a gift for transitioning what is in his head into document and making it seem realistic. I found interest in reading this book from my grandma and mother. Plus, my mom was making me read the required books to have been read for a city nearby, this just so happened to be on the list. In a way, I was forced to read it, but at the same time I was looking for new genres of novels and unique book selections.
    The novel starts out with the history of a tribal man and how he was doomed for failure through his personal chi -or god-. The man's name was Onkonwo and his father was considered a woman. This was because he had gained no title in life and therefore had not 'become a man'. Unoka, in fact, was a coward and a loafer. He was a poor man leaving his wife and children hardly enough to eat. People mocked him and swore they would not dare lend him any more money. However, Unoka always succeeded in borrowing more, along with piling up his debts. Unoka died, before he could pay back any of his debts and leaving Onkonkwo to feed his family. On the other hand, Onkonkwo had already accomplished more than his father when Unoka died. He was known for his wrestling skills and was gaining the trust from neighbors to spare him two barns worth of seed yams. In his life, Onkonkwo gained the privilage of having 3 wives and 2 out of 4 titles. Sadly, at the end of Part One Onkonkwo was forced to leave his clan and travel to the land of Mbanta, where the kinsmen of his mother lived. This leads to his new life and the beginning of Part Two of the book. I do believe that it's unique how 'Things Fall Apart' is split into two intertwining stories telling about Onkonkwo's troubles and trials he has to face. The first describes the clash between individual and society gains. The other describes the conflict between tribes and how European missionaries destroy Onkonkwo's tribal world from the inside out.
    I believe that this book gets slow at many parts. My reasoning simply is: Achebe describes certain parts too much and then whips back to the plot, not describing the parts that spark some interest. The plot is all over and used terms that are foreign and at times un able to comprehend. I have heard many times that it is hard to follow and readers stop reading. Over all, I think this book was an okay read if you have nothing else to read and you like novels with cultural themes.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2010

    Not Recommended

    Book is very slow, and somewhat hard to understand. Names can get very confusing and there is too much detail

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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