Achebe's debut novel, first published in the late 1950s, was one of the first major English-language works by an African author, and is notable for depicting the life of a "primitive" community from the point of view of an insider.
Taking place in a fictional Nigerian village, at some point during the Victorian era, it is the tale of Okonkwo, a proud, alpha-male patriarch, who is brought down when his age-old values and beliefs come up against Western attitudes, with the arrival of Christian missionaries and colonial governors.
Achebe is unsentimental about the more brutal and irrational aspects of African traditionalism (e.g. twins being seen as cursed), but once one grows accustomed to his studiedly unadorned style and the unapologetically insular perspective, one finds oneself utterly involved. Re-reading it after many years, I was struck both by the tragic inevitability of its hero's downfall, and the even-handedness of the story-telling.
Its reputation as one of the most significant novels of the 20th century is certainly merited.
A story, in three parts, of the impact of both religious and political colonisation on traditional Africa, viewed through the life of Okonkwo, a strict, hardworking and successful traditionalist. The first part is about Okonkwo growing up and the way of life (all aspects, including beliefs, traditions, societal structures, divisions of labour and even food) in a traditional southern Nigerian village. It ends with Okonkwo, due to a tragic accident, being exiled from the village for seven years and moving with his immediate family to the village his mother came from. The second part, covering the seven years of Okonkwo’s exile, sees the arrival of the “white men”, initially a soft approach by Christian missionaries, seeking converts, and, subsequently, colonial government, gradually imposing British laws and justice on the indigenous people. In the third part, Okonkwo returns to his home, at the end of his seven years of exile, to find that everything has changed, with the missionaries and colonial government firmly ensconced and telling Okonkwo’s people that everything about their religion, culture and traditions is wrong and has to change. The colonisers toughen up their approach, leading to a clash of cultures and religions and, ultimately, disaster. This is a powerful and compelling read; it is not an easy read, not least because of frequent use of Ibo language and concepts and traditions which are not fully explained, but is certainly a rewarding one, giving a strong and clear view of the impact of colonisation from the perspective of the colonised.
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.
Things Fall Apart goes beyond being a story or providing insight on what happened as colonialism took root. It makes the reader a member of the village and enlightens the reader with a visceral understanding of what could not be understood at the time (and for many who still seem to forget how Britian became an Empire). I really like how it doesn't paint the villagers/villages as one homogeneous group as is the tendency of textbooks. The very ending is superb. Highly recommend.
With this first book of Achebe's trilogy, we get a glimpse of what his society and culture was like before the European colonialists invaded his country.
The story is set in the Nigerian village of Umuofia in the late 1800's. Most of the book revolves around the main character Okonkwo whose biography portrays village life at the time, the rules and customs of Nigerian culture and it's the stark contrast between those patriarchal structures that later clash with the Christian world view of the European invader. Since their culture is based on history and tradition, the shock with a different religion is catastrophic.
It's a fascinating story because with my modern feminist eyes I cannot endorse many of the condescending views men then had about girls and women in general. However, it's very thought-provoking and at times devastating.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Really interesting account of precolonial Africa somewhere in the Niger valley, and then the arrival of the white man in the form of ineffectual missionaries, followed by wilful cultural deceit and mistrust, and subsequent punitive action from the regional colonial administration. An object lesson in colonial subjugation, it's almost the archetypal story behind so many of those black and white photographs of indigenous elders shackled together as some form of collective punishment, whether it be in Africa, India, Aotearoa or Australia. Really interesting and not often that you get to read the story from that particular historical viewpoint.