There are several important elements to keep in mind when approaching Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. First, it should be noted that the novel is among the most important postcolonial texts to come from Nigeria. Nigeria has a rich literary heritage that includes such artists as Chimamanda Adichie and Wole Soyinka, but Achebe is widely considered to be the father of the African novel. Things Fall Apart has been hugely influential to subsequent writers who grapple with postcolonial issues.
Next, this text is notable because it is among the first to give Western readers a glimpse into the culture and traditions of Igbo tribes. Achebe depicts the customs and rituals of the Umuofian tribe with vivid detail. This kind of story stands in stark contrast to the Eurocentric tales found in the Western imagination. Achebe provides three-dimensional portrayals to distinctly Nigerian characters. These are characters that would traditionally be disregarded, marginalized, or else dehumanized in works by Western authors, much like they are in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and other such texts. Achebe presents an authentic Nigerian voice blended with elements of notable Greek tragedies to combat the reductive portrayals found throughout Western literature.
Finally, I find Achebe’s critique of violent masculinity to be a fascinating motif. Okonkwo prides himself on being masculine and eschewing all things that he associates with “femininity” and weakness. However, his rigidity and emphasis on violent manliness ultimately leads to his downfall. Achebe’s evaluation of masculinity is one of the most compelling aspects of the novel.
Achebe’s masterpiece continues to be an influential novel, and the reasons I have provided are just some of the aspects that have lead to the novel remaining an important landmark in the literary canon.