Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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Discuss and analyze in depth the similarities and differences of the novels Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

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Here are two ways to compare, contrast, and otherwise pair Things Fall Apart and The Alchemist.

Faith Traditions and Communities of Faith

Ideas (and conflicts) relating to specific systems of belief characterize each of these novels.

For both protagonists, the way that the world works around them is often defined and determined by a worldview best understood as culturally endemic and faith-based.

In each book, there are too many references to issues of faith to mention them all. When investigating similarities between the two novels, we can focus some of our analysis on the ways in which faith is represented as a powerful element of the lives of the protagonists.

How is Okonkwo affected by his relationship to his religious beliefs and those of his community in Things Fall Apart? How is Santiago affected by his religious beliefs and by those of the people he encounters? To what extent are the lives of these characters determined by their relationship(s) to faith-based ideas of what to believe, how to act, etc.?

An equally important element to note is that both of these novels treat the supernatural properties of the faiths they discuss as being real. The "reality" of the worlds represented is substantively shaped by the faith traditions depicted therein.

We can parse this in several ways and wonder if the authors were suggesting that (1) social reality is determined by the thinking of a society or community or (2) that an individual’s truest relationship to reality is defined by his or her deepest beliefs.

There are more ways to interpret this aspect of each novel, and it is in this rich area that we might find a good place to contrast Things Fall Apart against The Alchemist.

There is a greater interest in social perceptions (as well as a certain cultural relativism) in the politically driven Things Fall Apart than in the more philosophically oriented The Alchemist.

For both, the reality that the protagonist

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