Things Fall Apart (Norton Critical Editions)

Things Fall Apart (Norton Critical Editions)

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.


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Things Fall Apart (Norton Critical Editions)

Chinua Achebe’s tragic novel of pre-colonial Igbo society was a major literary and cultural event when it was published in 1958.
Written during a period of nationalist assertion and an emerging modern culture in Africa, Things Fall Apart’s influence quickly spread from Nigeria throughout Africa and beyond. In its fifty years, this unforgettable novel has been translated into fifty languages and has been read by millions.
A Chronology of Achebe’s life and work and a Selected Bibliography are also included.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393932195
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/19/2008
Series: Norton Critical Editions Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 598
Sales rank: 155,131
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Francis Abiola Irele, formerly Professor of French, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, was for several years Professor of African, French, and Comparative Literature at the Ohio State University. After retiring from Ohio State in 2003, he became Visiting Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Among his many publications are The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature (edited with Simon Gikandi) and two collections of essays, The African Experience in Literature and Ideology and The African Imagination: Literature in Africa and the Black Diaspora. He is a contributing editor to The Norton Anthology of World Literature and General Editor of the Cambridge Studies in African and Caribbean Literature series.

What People are Saying About This

Nadine Gordimer

[Achebe is] gloriously gifted, with the magic of an ebullient, generous, great talent.

Reading Group Guide

1. 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?

2. 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?

3. 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?

4. 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?

5. 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?

6. 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?

7. 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 religiouspractices, which ones might appear barbaric or bizarre to an outsider?

8. 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?

9. 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.

10. 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?

11. 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?

12. 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?

13. 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?

14. 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?

15. 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?

16. 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?

17. 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?

18. 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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Things Fall Apart 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 287 reviews.
Wordzmind More than 1 year ago
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.
Derp More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
mc76NYC More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
readersreader More than 1 year ago
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.
davidbuckholtz-eenglish More than 1 year ago
David Buckholtz 1/27/10 English 3 Homework Book Review The modern tragedy of Okonkwo who is a Igbo farmer who has been born out of a confusing family by his athletic talents and hard work. His entire life is motivated by a fear of failure, failing like his poor father. The reason why he put so much pressure on his famlily. Okonkwo stated that "Will you give Ezinma some fire to bring to me?" ... often called her Ezigbo, which means "the good one." (5.30-34). Tragic events build each other causing the arrival of white men and the irreversible change of Okonkwo's world. This story is about the life of Okonkwo, an up and coming leader of an Igbo village in Africa. He is willing to do anything to maintain his social status, no matter the suffering that it causes himself and those around him. Everything that Okonkwo holds dear becomes threatened after an accidental shooting. Okonkwo must flee with his family from his beloved village for seven years, losing the life that he worked so hard to gain. He gets through his seven years of exile only to go back home and discover that everything has changed. White missionaries have come to convert Africa to their ways.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Things Fall Apart is a great novel written by Chinua Achebe. This book is about a Nigerian warrior, clansman, farmer, and family provider extraordinaire named Okonkwo from the Umufia clan. It is known to be the lowest clan among nine villages. He is the son of the desist Unoka, who has left him many debts to deal with. Okonkwo is married to several wives Ekwefi and Ojiugo, and has a son named Nwoye, and daughter Ezinma to name a few. Okonkwo's tribe wins a boy from another tribe named Ikemefuna, after claiming him as a son for years Okonkwo is told to kill the boy. This has a big affect on Okonkwo. Okonkwo is one the main characters in the book. He known is very bold, violent, strong. The reason for this is because Okonkwo wanted to be the complete opposite from his father. His father was a cowardly type man, and was known as gentle. He wanted to be better than his father. Ogbuefi Ezeudu is the villages' oldest man. He is described as very wise. This is because he is old, old people known more and has experienced more. He was known to be a good warrior of his time. He warns Okonkwo about Ikemefuna, and tells him to kill Ikemefuna. Another character that is brave is confident, and brave is Ezinma. The reason that she is this way is because she the way she stands up to her father. She tends to approach her father in a masculine manner. "Does the white man understand our custom about land?" "How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad; and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us?' This is a conversation between Obierika and Okonkwo, This is discussing the arrival of the white taking over their village. This quote is important because it talks about the purpose of the village falling apart. Also this is the main idea of the novel. It is like the conflict of the novel. This quote gives you an idea of what the storyline maybe like. I believe that this is a good book because it shows you the way that people in Africa were living. This shows how they have to deal with outsiders. It shows how back in that time how Europeans invaded African villages and try to convert people all over Africa. This book was written very well. I thought it was bad that the take an enemy's child a there's and raise them. I thought it was weird how people of the village wee actually converting, and this was shown as being weak. Overall this is a great book, it really captures how they lived in the Nigerian villages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book Review: Things Fall Apart Things Fall Apart by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe is a novel written in 1958. This takes place in the Igbo community of Umuofia in Eastern Nigeria. It all revolves around the life of Okonkwo. Okonkwo is respected and an influential leader within the Igbo community. Okonkwo gains personal fame and brings honor to his village when he defeats Amalinze the Cat in a wrestling contest. After winning more wrestling contests, Okonkwo becomes more powerful and a wealthy man in spite of his father’s weaknesses. His father Unoka was a lazy and wasteful man. He would ask for loans of money and then waste it on bars and with his friends. Over the years, Okonkwo becomes more of an extremely volatile ma. He is opt to explode with the slightest thing. He violated rules within his village when he beats his youngest wife Ojiugo because she went to braid her hair at her friend’s house and forgot to prepare the afternoon meal and feed her children. He later severely beats and shoots a gun at his second wife Ekwefi because she took leaves from his banana plant. Okonkwo later starts to feel depressed due to all of the stress that he has had around the village and the things he had to do to sacrifice his village in order for the village to stay strong. At a funeral of a clan leader Okonkwo’s gun goes off and accidentally kills a 16 year old in the village. Killing a clansman from your village is an act of crime against the Earth Goddess, so Okonkwo and his family must be exiled from Umuofia for seven years. So Okonkwo and his family move to his mother’s native village, Mbanta. A group of mean from that village kill his animals in order to clean the sin that Okonkwo committed. My reaction to this novel was that it was a powerful reading for me with how much intensity there was and how much emotion there was within the reading. You get to read about how different cultures do their own routine. I recommend you read this novel due to the intensity and energy that the author gives and how much detail is put into each page.
toniFMAMTC More than 1 year ago
Some parts were interesting but sometimes I had trouble staying focused.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In “Things Fall Apart”, by Chinua Achebe, the main character Okonkwo experiences change through the Ibo culture. Okonkwo’s biggest fear is failure and weakness. The major themes of the novel include: masculinity, femininity, power of fear, and change. Okonkwo hoped that his children would be masculine; he thinks his son Nwoye is weak, and his favorite daughter is more masculine, however he wishes she were a boy. In the Ibo culture, being feminine is weak. With that being said, it goes against Okonkwo’s beliefs. Okonkwo deals with a great amount of fear, because he wants to be more of a warrior and not lazy and irresponsible like his father Unoka, who had died with no titles and unpaid debts. The Ibo culture evolved when the missionaries came to Umuofia, because they enjoyed the new ideas to the community. The overall purpose of the novel is that change is going to happen no matter what, and you will have to learn how to deal with it. I learned that new things gradually happen, which will make a difference. Change cannot be prevented, because if there were no change, things would be the same. Change is unique and is always a part of life. I enjoyed reading this novel, because I learned a lot of life lessons through Okonkwo’s experiences. I think that this is an awesome novel to read as a senior in High School, because as we go into the “real” world, we will understand the difficulties of change. - Juliette H.
PPoperah More than 1 year ago
I appreciate this novel in showing the Igbo people as their own microcosm, and not as they have been in other works of literature as "savage" or naive people who know nothing beyond their huts. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. This was also mandatory class reading, and as a High School Senior I appreciate this.
Kiribear13 More than 1 year ago
Things Fall Apart is written by Chinua Achebe and is the first book in The African Trilogy. It is told from the perspective of a Nigerian Tribe as Christianity is thrust upon their world in the late 19th Century. I knew that this book was one that was critically acclaimed and perhaps that made me go into it with certain expectations. With that being said, I definitely wouldn’t want to read this book again for many reasons. Let’s start with talking about the good aspects of the book. At the time that it was written, Chinua Achebe led the charge with showing a Nigerian perspective of the Imperialist takeover of West Africa of the late 9th century. As far as the book itself, I have to praise Chinua for taking an overall view in the description of life. He manages to portray both the good and bad of the tribes that the reader follows throughout the story, and still shows a predominantly unbiased approach to the missionaries and their dealings. My biggest complaint about this book is the telling of it. It told from an omnipotent narrative, that predominantly follows the life of Okonkwo, a revered Nigerian warrior. The book can most be related to thinking within one’s mind. When you are thinking about something such as ice cream, and then you describe it in detail and then it makes you think about food in general such as pizza, and then you think about Italy and then you try to remember what you were originally thinking about and you go back to the flavor of the ice cream. Part one of the book was the worst about this. The book was jumping around so much. It would topic jump and then back track and retell part of the story and then jump again, and then go back to the same story later. It was quite annoying to read, and disrupted the flow of the book quite extensively. I also wished for more descriptions. I don’t know why I have encountered so many book recently that completely left off the physical descriptors of the people. It is hard to become immersed within a story if the author fails to paint the full picture for you. I had to look up pictures of 1890s era Nigerian tribal members to try to get a feel for what was going on at the time, and to try to bring the characters to life for me. My other problem in connecting with this book was that Part One took up almost 60% of the book being about the indigenous people, daily life, and beliefs, and then Part Two is in his mother’s village and the Christian missionaries are coming into their life, and the Part Three is very abrupt with Christianity thrust upon them. After all that, the end was very dissatisfying and left me saying… “Wait, what?” I don’t want to spoil it, but I feel that the end of the book went against Okonkwo’s nature as a warrior and in his belief that he would do such a thing. Overall I give the book 2 out of 5 stars. I love the attempt that was made. I wish this book had better flow. It was a painful read for me to get through it. I did love Okonkwo’s daughter, and it would be interesting to hear a book told from her point of view. I get that it was nice to see something from this perspective and I can appreciate the subject material. The bottom line for me is that if you strip that away and just look at this as a story, it is severely lacking in star quality. It is a good read if you are interested in classics, historical fiction, Nigeria, British imperialism of west Africa, Christianity, Indigenous beliefs in Africa, the Igbos...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kp1002 More than 1 year ago
The book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a well written masterpiece about a famous warrior, Okonkwo, from a Western African tribe. I enjoyed the book because it showed how little we know about West African traditions and culture. Things Fall Apart caught my attention, not only from the intriguing title but also from how quickly things can literally fall apart when you are trying to not be like someone else. In the book, Okonkwo goes from fame to shame showing how quickly things can change. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy stories with a lot of historical value uncovering the past. Even though this book is fictional, it is based on many historical facts. Things Fall Apart is great for high school students as it captures you into the moment and makes you think about how different the past is from now. More or less from a male perspective, the book really shows the Igbo cultures and beliefs of roles in their households and the characteristics of how a man was in the village of Umuofia. The culture of the village played a huge theme in the book as Okonkwo always feared being like his father, who in his eyes was not a true man and a failure. Overall Things Fall Apart is a good, historical read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AidenVB More than 1 year ago
Chinua Achebe’s, “Things Fall Apart,” tells of a man in Africa that faces many life struggles. This man is named Okonkwo, and he is confronted with many issues such as: having a terrible relationship with his father, being assigned to take care of a young boy from another tribe, and having problems controlling his anger, which leads to the deaths and injuries of those that he cherishes. Although one could think that Okonkwo’s problems all have simple solutions, Okonkwo’s character and attitude prevent him from overcoming the nuisances in which he created. In fact, his character pushes him to complete the acts of a maniac. These main conflicts are a result of Okonkwo’s relationship with his father, Unoka. Okonkwo hates the debt and cowardice his father contributes to their tribe, and vows to never be like him. Okonkwo’s violent nature is derived from the fact that it is the opposite of his father’s kind, gentle, and weak character. Most of Okonkwo’s life troubles are a result of his anger, which makes his anger towards his father grow even more. “Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe, describes a man named Okonkwo that produces many issues for himself, but never finds a solution and instead resorts to violence. The end of the book has a shocking scene where the main root of all these problems is aborted. 
emariscal More than 1 year ago
The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is about a man named Okonkwo who strives to redeem himself after the shameful legacy his father left behind. However Okonkwo determination and overly prideful masculinity, leads to his eventual downfall. The text’s writing style reflects the mindset of the traditional native people, and also make the conflict development all the more complicated due to the simple writing style. Characterization in the novel is derived from the description of the characters as well as their actions. The theme of the novel involves how someone can be noble in committing to his own morals yet it being the cause of their misery. The novel’s plot and writing style definitely provide a deeper meaning to the text and therefore give the novel literary merit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a High School Sophomore and I chose to read this book for my research project on the Taj Mahal. I chose to read this book because I thought it would be interesting and because my teacher recommended it. I did not find it interesting at all. For a good portion of the book it mainly discusses previous rulers, their history, and impact they made on the future rulers and I think that it was too informative and unnecessary. It also goes into too much detail on the ruler’s conquest and fight to keep the throne and power. The main reason I did not like this book is because it took several chapters to begin discussing the Taj Mahal, and when it did, it did not help me as much as I thought it would. I could not answer most of my research questions with this book. When the book finally discussed the Taj Mahal it is too detailed about its architecture, design, calligraphy, and techniques on how they built it. It also discusses too much about the people involved it its construction. I felt the authors should have included more about Taj Mahal itself instead of all the history about their ancient rulers. It took me a lot to read this book and I would doze off frequently. The only thing I enjoyed about this book were the pictures. They showed the unique structures and patterns inside and outside of the Taj Mahal. Overall, I thought this book was very boring and I would only recommend it to people who are interested in history.  
ChaubL More than 1 year ago
A great chronicle of corruption in Nigeria. Very eye-opening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are many wonderful things in this book.  The main character undergoes so many changes in this novel relating to family, religion, and even himself.  It was a very interesting piece to read and I am glad that my teacher assigned it. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for my sophomore English class. This is a very intriguing book and I found it to be  interesting, yet some parts are confusing. The story point of view made some parts difficult to understand.  Overall, I enjoyed this book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a high school sophomore and this was required reading. It was a great book, with a disappointing ending.