What are some literary techniques used in the novel Things Fall Apart?

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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One is the use of a third-person omniscient narrator in this novel. We are privy to each character's private thoughts and emotions, but not limited to one character's point of view. There is also very little dialogue, which gives the impression of oral story-telling. The importance of oral story-telling is evident throughout the book, as the Ibo people honor and uphold the tradition. Although there is no dominant point of view, the narration shifts between characters throughout. So, even though we begin with Okonkwo, we also see the world through the thoughts of Ikemefuna, Nwoye, even the District Commissioner in the last paragraph. This shifting viewpoint allows the reader to consider all sides of the conflicts, & reach his/her own conclusions about their outcomes.

Even though the third-person narrator maintains an objective point of view, there is an interjection of vivid imagery/figurative language and Ibo vocabulary. Thus, although he writes in English, he “Africanizes” the language of the novel. Specific Igbo words and complicated names are used freely. Profound philosophical concepts such as chi and ogbanje are explained in the text or glossary and are fundamental to the story. The use of idioms and proverbs also clarifies the conflict, expresses different points of view, and instructs the characters as well as the reader. Even though the point of view is third person, the cultural context is quite personal and revealing. The use of native proverbs offers a look at the situation through the psychology of the tribe, in contrast to the attitudes of the British.

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