Because the colonial era ended in different places at different times, the term postcolonial can apply to literature that is concerned with the influence of colonialism and its demise from the time it became a global phenomenon. For example, postcolonial Caribbean literature may address the late 15th century, from the point that Columbus arrived in the islands, while African literature may be primarily concerned with the massive wave of decolonization struggles in the 1950s through 1960s.
One common characteristic of postcolonial literature from diverse regions is the focus on the indigenous people as active agents rather than on the colonizers's actions and oppressions. Many works have explicitly political themes and are set during or around the period when a particular country had its independent status recognized. Another frequent subject is the cultural dimensions of a given society, and the political consequences of ostensibly non-political topics are brought to light.
In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe situates the action in the era when British colonial penetration of Nigeria was expanding and was on the verge of removing Igbo and other native peoples from positions of authority. There is little mention of the British until the last section, when Okonkwo returns from exile and must confront the extent of British religious influence and administrative control. In particular, his son Nwoye has converted to Christianity. While the reader knows that independence and return to indigenous rule would occur within a few generations, Okonwko despairs at the loss of his country and takes his own life.