Anthills of the Savannah

by Chinua Achebe

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 645

1. A novel of political unrest and conflict in a country whose fate has been determined as much by foreign influence as indigenous tradition, Anthills of the Savannah invites discussion on a number of topics: the worth and integrity of the major protagonists as they hide from or confront the problems of their country; the issue of the role demanded of the well-educated in a society where most are illiterate; the responsibility of government to govern for the people; the issue of the merits of the present corrupt military regime vs. the former corrupt civilian regime, and how both stand up to the prior control of colonialism; the role of women in politics and in shaping culture; and role of the artist, the storyteller in politics and life.

2. The issue of class divisions and the allocation of wealth in a society is also important in Anthills of the Savannah. Is capitalism the best solution for a country like Nigeria? If so, what controls should be in place?

3. As the book gives credence to many religious views while at the same time questioning rigid adherence to them or overly literal interpretation of doctrine, it is also a good forum for discussion of religious conflicts and efforts at reconciliation of them. In addition it provokes the examination of religious sensibility.

4. Anthills of the Savannah also highlights many of the variables in the controversy about language and power, and may particularly appeal to those interested in the ‘‘English only’’ issue in American schools. Should a culture encourage a variety of linguistic roots, or should it enforce one language?

5. What evidence of conspicuous consumption do you see among the politically connected in the novel? Which characters resist the trend? Why?

6. Look carefully at Chris's and Ikem's comments about Sam, the dictator. How do these comments reflect on Sam, on themselves?

7. Is Sam's change in personality owing to a thirst for power, or is he in some sense a victim of his role as dictator?

8. From reading this novel, what do you think is the nature of Achebe's religious life? Do you see any authorial comments on the existence of higher powers, or is he interested in stories purely for aesthetic reasons?

9. Samson was a Hebrew ‘‘strong man.’’ What characters in the book are named after him? How strong are they? How do they compare and contrast with the original Samson?

10. Achebe chooses to write his books mainly in English. Why? Why do you think he also includes Igbo terms and pidgin? What kinds of feelings and thoughts are best communicated in pidgin? When do lovers use pidgin?

11. By the end of this novel, well-meaning, kindly men are murdered. Is this evidence that ‘‘nice guys don't win ball games,’’ or is the book making another point about well-educated, well-meaning people?

12. Look at the passage describing the presidential retreat. Do you think governments should build such grandiose structures when their people are so poor? What viewpoint seems to be communicated about the retreat? What goes on there? What are the people in power, as Chris suggests, retreating from?

13. Look at the passage that describes Beatrice's ‘‘seduction’’ of Sam. Why does she do what she does? What angers her? What point is made about Desdemona?

14. Beatrice is sometimes described as a priestess. What connection does she have to the Idemili legend? What is her effect on men? What is the importance of her changed attitude to Agatha?

15. Look carefully at the lower class characters in the book, like the cab drivers and servants. What intelligence do they possess? At what point does the author make them more visible? How do they qualify your view of the chief characters?

16. What is wrong with Ikem's assessment of and treatment of Elewa? Why does the author choose to end the book with the naming of Elewa's baby? What strengths does Elewa have that Beatrice does not?

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