Illustration of a person holding their head next to a noose and a detached head

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Start Free Trial

In Things Fall Apart, Achebe includes stories from Igbo culture and tradition, proverbs, and parables. What is the significance of Achebe's integration of African literary forms with that of Western literary forms?

Quick answer:

Things Fall Apart was written by Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian novelist. This novel tells the story of a man named Okonkwo and his village as it attempts to deal with the arrival of Christianity and Western culture. The novel is divided into seven books, each covering a different period in time from 1890 to 1960. Throughout the book, we see how Okonkwo deals with these changes as he is forced to adapt his values and traditions. Okonkwo lives in Umuofia, a small village that is situated on the Niger River. He was born under a palm tree (a very important symbol) and his father was a great warrior who died when Okonkwo was nine years old.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is an example of a postcolonial novel that attempts to show the effects of British colonialism on the Igbo people of Nigeria. It is basically a historical novel, looking backwards to a pure Igbo culture, as it existed in villages remote from the initial colonial incursions and showing how those villages changed as Christianity and British rule slowly penetrated the interior of Nigeria.

The novel replicates the tension between the two cultures. In terms of genre, this is a novel written in English, both the language of the imperial British and a genre that is European rather than African. In using this form, Achebe is engaging in mimicry and showing how the Igbo have assimilated to British culture.

The use of native Igbo forms and material act as a site of resistance to that assimilation, articulating the vision of the subaltern culture. This blending is referred to as hybridity and both acknowledges the postcolonial nature of modern Nigeria while resisting the hegemonic nature of British colonial culture. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A major theme of Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart is culture clash, or inter-cultural conflict generated by unprecedented interactions between two cultures. This theme is not only illustrated through the characters, syntax, diction, and plot of Achebe's piece, but also through the construction of the work itself. 

In traditional Western literature, there are certain expectations of the novel as a literary form. Characters and plots are meant to develop in a sure, expected manner; details are meant to be linear, clearly and pointedly developing one after another. 

This is sharply contrasted against Igbo cultural norms, which Achebe represents in his literature. Igbo culture, its proverbs, parables, and traditions, are perceived by Western characters, and indeed by many Western readers, as indirect, unnecessary, and frustrating. 

By integrating Igbo tradition into a Western literary form, Achebe's novel embodies this major theme of his work, culture clash. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial