Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Anchor Books, c1959, 1994

Genre: General fiction, historical fiction

ISBN: 9780385474542

Audience: Adult

Number of pages: 209

Setting: Umuofia & Mbanta, Africa (now Nigeria)

Time period: Not stated – the transitional period between traditional village life and colonization (1890’s)

Plot summary: Okonkwo tries to live a traditional life in his home village of Umuofia where he is a respected warrior and farmer.  When an accident occurs, Okonkwo and his family must seek refuge in another village for many years.  During this time, changes occur in Umuofia and Okonkwo is driven to despair.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: While this is a slim novel with some fast moving scenes, overall, the pacing seems deliberately slow.  Chapters are short and contain many breaks between scenes, giving the reader ample opportunity to pause and reflect before continuing the story.

Characterization: The story is told in third person from Okonkwo’s perspective.  An important secondary character is Ezinma, Okonkwo’s daughter.  It is through her character that the reader learns much about the traditional Igbo culture.

Language: The story was originally written in English and contains various Igbo words and phrases.  (The edition I read had a glossary in the back – which I wish I knew was there when I started the book!)

Frame: The title provides the frame for this book; this is not a happy, feel-good story.

Story line: A contemplative story which examines the impact of Christian missionaries and the British Empire upon both traditional Igbo communities and one individual.

Subject headings:

From Pima County Public Library:

British — Nigeria — Fiction.

Men — Nigeria — Fiction.

Race relations — Fiction.

Igbo (African people) — Fiction.

Nigeria — History — Fiction.

Africa — History — Fiction.

Africa, Central — History — Fiction.

Nigeria — Fiction.

Nigeria — Race relations — Fiction.

Africa, Central — Race relations — Fiction.

Historical fiction.

Similar works/ authors:

Graceland by Chris Abani

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu

The Stone Virgins by Yvonne Vera

Personal notes:

Somehow I missed reading this classic earlier in life.  I’m glad to have read it even though it is not a happy story.  I also found that it took me a while to get through because I needed to put it down for a while and process what I had read.  And while I did not find much in common with the main character, I was quite dismayed by the ending.

Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – Igbo, British missionaries and government officials, kotma: foreign African court messengers, aka “Ashy-Buttocks”

A website devoted to Chinua Achebe

Wikipedia’s entry on the Igbo

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