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on 5 December 2016
Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart uniquely transcends its reader to a whole new world, and offers an invitation to an awakened imagination. Centered around Okonkwo - a wrestling champion and acclaimed warrior of Umuofia - the book sheds light on the value of Igbo culture, beliefs and traditions, and the historical dependence on deism and religion as a determinant of fate. Achebe delves into precolonial Igboland, using proverbs, folklore and the Igbo language to highlight indigenous social and cultural norms. The author subtly renders the conception of colonialism as an extension of enlightenment and revolution as a fallacy, and though imperfect, illustrates a demise in the system of self governance and the use of Igbo language, following the invasion of European missionaries and governments.

Wherever possible, Okonkwo never failed to seize the opportunity to express his masculinity. Through the village fights, meetings with the elders and interactions with his family members, the preservation of his tough, manly, undefeated and fearless figure was of paramount importance. So much so that he coldly murdered Ikemefuna - who looked up to him as a father - just to protect this ‘masculine’ image. The irony in Okonkwo’s story is the fact that the display of masculinity and the desire to be feared and respected was an exhibition of a different form of fear in itself. That is, the fear of being anything close to the legacy of his late father - lazy, weak, and in turn, feminine. The need to dissociate himself from his father, Unoka, was the bane of Okonkwo’s existence and simultaneously, the shovel for which Okonkwo dug his grave.

The desire to be alienated from the negative legacy of his father is however not synonymous to Okonkwo. It is an innate feature that unconsciously drives majority of people, especially young people. The fear of failing or mirroring the thing(s) loathed in familial relationships, unbeknownst to us, shapes our decisions, and who we strive to be. This, from conversations engaged in with young people, is increasingly apparent in the Nigerian society today. Particularly in broken homes, the residual bitterness that lingers often lays a foundation; for which many tend to build glass houses out of, in the bid to refute certain characteristics of their parent(s).

Conversely, the fear of not living up to one’s parent’s legacy likewise shapes us, and influences the standards we set for ourselves. They redefine our idea of success, and remind us that failure - at any stage in life - is certainly not an option. Equivocally, the fear of failing to walk in - or perhaps, create bigger - footprints of one’s parent often subconsciously becomes one’s biggest conquest in life. Similar to Okonkwo, one is clothed with societal pressure, and the need for recognition and status; armed with the sword of parental burdens, expectations, inadequacies and responsibilities; perpetually fighting to break free from the shadow of the legacy of their parent(s).

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To be considered more of a man - because possessing male genital organs is simply insufficient in Nigeria - one’s assets as well as the number of wives, especially in the precolonial and traditionalist setting, spoke volumes. Mutually non-exclusive, the more wealth and power you possessed either by working hard, claiming titles or winning inter-village fights, the more you were respected as a man by your peers, elders and more importantly, women, in Igboland. This was indeed the case in Umuofia - the village from which Okonkwo’s father hailed, and Okonkwo’s place of residence. His ‘manliness’ as exhibited by the number of fights under his belt not only scored him his title as a clan leader and warrior in Umuofia, but also won him the heart of his second wife, Ekwefi, who had earlier married another man because Okonkwo, at that time, was poor.

Without endorsing the idea of adultery and cautiously noting, the setting of the story portrays polygamy as the true and traditionalist nature of Nigerian men. In precolonial Igboland, as Achebe casts in Things Fall Apart, polygamy and status went hand in hand. In contrast to modern Nigeria where monogamy as enforced by the Christian missionaries is “respected” in most - mainly Christian - households, a man was not a man unless he had more than one wife. Similarly, the ‘real’ men - that is, non-effeminate - were known by the fruits they bore. That is, the number of children they had, and the gender of the offspring - as male children were better valued.

The dominance of men in the household and society is a recurrent theme in Things Fall Apart. As simple as emotions, these were for women...
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on 25 February 2017
This title is one of the few texts I studied back in school that I have been eager to reread. While a quick read through is worthwhile, it can be much more rewarding to spend some extra time exploring the history surrounding the book, and the main themes of culture clash and destiny. Highly recommend this book.
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on 10 December 2015
Okonkwo, a proud member of an Ibo village in Nigeria, is exiled for seven years along with his family, after a tragedy. When he returns, the white men have arrived with their laws and religion, and the old ways and customs are being eroded.

After a shaky start, where I struggled to get the Ibo names in my head and sort out who was who, I got into this short tale. The first part, describing village life is simple and innocent, where history and tradition play a big part. Then we move to the exile where Okonkwo builds a new, but temporary life in the village of his maternal family. The final bit is the return home to find that the white men who seemed so comical and inconsequential to begin with, are enforcing laws that the villagers can hardly comprehend, and tearing apart the fabric of the whole way of life that had seemed natural for so long. An interesting read.
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on 17 January 2015
How can a book written with such simple yet crafted words be so profound and powerful? A must read for anyone with an interest in Africa. The main character is hard, yet we feel great sympathy for him. A cohesive story of village life and its difficulties, on which scene appears the white man, bringing an alien system of law and their christian religion. Beautifully and seemlessly constructed, eliciting emotion from the sheer humaness of the events and without sentimentality. A powerful ending which, even though I'm not African, gave a pang of pain for the Africa that was lost (in all its beauty and cruelity) when colonisation occurred. Nothing is clichéd, and it has the realism and human problems that give a ring of truth in every line. Written with humility but deep knowledge. Read this book because it will make you a different person.
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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2016
This the story of the downfall of Okonkwo, a proud but violent man, and village Ibo culture though the coming of the missionaries. Achebe writes in a flat nonjudgmental style describing both the good and the bad aspects of day to day village life, dominated by superstition but for all that functioning and structured. The arrival of the white missionaries and the villagers response to that brings it crashing down. By the end it reminded a little of animal farm, looking from Ibo to missionary and seeing neither superior to the other.

With Achebes flat style it's not exactly a gripping read, but it's an intriguing and memorable one.
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on 13 February 2013
Achebe's Things Fall Apart read and feels different in so many ways. The novel is effectively split into two halves, the first telling the life story of Okonkwo, the hero, in a traditional rural setting, and the second describing his village and clan's tribulations as the white man appears. The book reads at first quite differently from a novel, more like a loosely connected connection of tales, an epic interspersed with essential family history. Okonkwo, from modest origins, has risen to become a successful farmer, fighter, and a peer of his clan. His preoccupations are woven into village custom, traditional law, and religion. His story is one of everyday lore mixed in with the requisite homage to the supernatural. Then, in the novel's second part, the colonist arrives: missionary, policeman, judge. Okonkwo's world is irredeemable upset as its structures, its economy, and its very beliefs fall to the blows of superior force. Everything begins to fall apart. And the story, told from the point of view of the Africans, remains forever poignant, the irruption of unforgiving modernity among its unsuspecting victims forever incomprehensible. Eminently accessible, this is a compelling, wrenching read.
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on 29 May 2018
I've heard many people talk about this book including my dad. He always refers to the title anytime he's telling his story. I was surprised when a white British colleague of mine was telling me about the book. So I decided to buy it and read as I've not had the opportunity to read it whilst growing up in Nigeria. The book is captivating and it is quite interesting to see some cultural similarities in South Eastern and South Western parts of Nigeria. I now intend to pass the book on to my nephews and nieces who live in the UK to learn a bit about the history of Nigeria.
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on 29 November 2017
Outstanding. An essential read for would-be defenders of colonialism. An education. And so beautifully written. The images it conjured will stay with me.
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on 4 November 2015
I read this as a teenager. It is a great story as well as a social commentary on trying to live in a fluid society while remaining rigid in thought and action.

Okonkwos abound in our world today and can especially be found amongst immigrants seeking to rear their second generations kids using parameters of a world they left behind in their countries of origin.

It reflects the changes a society goes through and the problems faced by those who can't or refuse to modify and change along with it.

An absolute must read for all irrespective of ethnicity.
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on 10 November 2015
A gripping narrative giving an insight into an alien, in many ways primitive, culture and its inevitable decline as it comes into contact with the modern world. Characters who might in a different context be altogether unsympathetic - at least viewed by contemporary, first-world standards - somehow elicit sympathy and understanding as their beliefs and way of life are systematically undermined, eroding their status and leaving them powerless. I can't wait to read the next episode.
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