Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Summary, Book Review, Online Reading, PDF, Download)


Author Chinua Achebe
Country Nigeria
Language English
Publisher William Heinemann Ltd.
Publication date

Summary: Things fall apart for Chinua Achebe: a novel of great power that turns the world upside down. The Nigerian novelist Achebe goes back to the early days of his people's encounter with colonialism, in the 1890s, although the white man and his religion impress history only in its later stages. Instead of being treated as spectators before the arrival of colonial power, be it passive or threatening, here Africans are the center of attention, capable all the time of nobility but also of cruelty, wisdom, and bewilderment. Okonkwo is an ambitious man within the Umuofia clan of the Igbo tribe. Determined to be a gentleman, he observes his rules, even the hardest ones, although that observance will eventually drive away his own son. Achebe guides us through the complexities of the Igbo culture, its deep sense of justice, its sometimes murderous rules, its noble and harmful machismo. By the time the British colonial administrator reaches the end of the book to dismiss the natives as savages, we know how deeply wrong that word is. RL Things Fall Apart is a novel written by the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe in 1958. The story focuses on pre and post-colonial life at the end of the 19th century in Nigeria. It is considered the modern archetypal African novel in English, one of the first to receive the acclaim of world criticism. It is a basic book in schools in Africa and is widely read and studied in English speaking countries around the world. It was first published in 1958 by William Heinemann Ltd in the United Kingdom; in 1962, it was also the first work published in Heinemann's African Writers Series. The title of the novel comes from a line in W. B. Yeats's poem "The Second Coming."The novel follows the life of Okonkwo, an Igbo leader ("Ibo" in the novel) and local wrestling champion in the fictional Nigerian town of Umuofia. The work is divided into three parts: the first describes his family, his personal history, the customs and society of the Igbo, and the second and third sections introduce the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries in the Igbo community. After "Fall Apart", a sequel was produced, No Longer at Ease (1960), originally written as the second part of a more extensive work together with Arrow of God (1964). Achebe states that his two later novels, A Man of the People (1966) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987), although they do not include the descendants of Okonkwo, are spiritual successors of the earlier novels in the chronicle of African history.

Review: One of Chinua Achebe's many achievements in his acclaimed first novel, Things Fall Apart, is his relentlessly unsentimental rendering of Nigerian tribal life before and after the coming of colonialism. First published in 1958, just two years before Nigeria declared independence from Great Britain, the book eschews the obvious temptation of depicting pre-colonial life as a kind of Eden. Instead, Achebe sketches a world in which violence, war, and suffering exist, but are balanced by a strong sense of tradition, ritual, and social coherence. His Ibo protagonist, Okonkwo, is a self-made man. The son of a charming ne'er-do-well, he has worked all his life to overcome his father's weakness and has arrived, finally, at great prosperity and even greater reputation among his fellows in the village of Umuofia. Okonkwo is a champion wrestler, a prosperous farmer, husband to three wives and father to several children. He is also a man who exhibits flaws well-known in Greek tragedy: Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart, Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. And yet Achebe manages to make this cruel man deeply sympathetic. He is fond of his eldest daughter, and also of Ikemefuna, a young boy sent from another village as compensation for the wrongful death of a young woman from Umuofia. He even begins to feel pride in his eldest son, in whom he has too often seen his own father. Unfortunately, a series of tragic events tests the mettle of this strong man, and it is his fear of weakness that ultimately undoes him. Achebe does not introduce the theme of colonialism until the last 50 pages or so. By then, Okonkwo has lost everything and been driven into exile. And yet, within the traditions of his culture, he still has a hope of redemption. The arrival of missionaries in Umuofia, however, followed by representatives of the colonial government, completely disrupts Ibo culture, and in the chasm between old ways and new, Okonkwo is lost forever. Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture.

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