Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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In what ways might "The Headstrong Historian" be considered Things Fall Apart fan fiction? In what ways is Adichie's story something more? What do resonances with Things Fall Apart add to "The Headstrong Historian"? What do Adichie's innovations add to the experience of reading Things Fall Apart?

The story makes many references to Achebe's novel, and extends the story into the present, suggesting that a new generation of Nigerians will come to return to their traditional roots.

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Adichie's story references characters and events in "Things Fall Apart," and is a kind of extension or continuation of Achebe's novel into the future. So in that sense, the label "fan fiction" is perhaps appropriate. Knowing Things Fall Apart adds to the experience of reading Adichie's story. If you know the novel, you are immediately (and pleasurably) returned to the world of Umuofia. The customs at hand in the story are familiar because of the novel, and the conflict of the story, between traditional beliefs and White missionaries, is one we understand. It is possible to argue that the story could not be a story, that is, a short piece of fiction, without assuming the reader knew the earlier novel. While the story makes sense without that knowledge, the definitely gains depth and meaning when the reader has that background.

In a way, the story can be understood as a revisiting of the problems of Achebe's novel, and a kind of extension or rewriting of that novel's rather bleak end. The text that the Commissioner is writing at the end of the novel, "The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger," forms part of the reading Nwamgba's granddaughter Afamefuma does at her Catholic school in the story. Her reaction to this text eventually leads to her decision to become a historian of the Igbo people and eventually discard her "White" name Grace and legally adopt Afamefuma as her name. The story, in other words, extend's Achebe's novel and suggests that future generations will rediscover and honor their traditional roots.

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