Introduction to Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart is a novel by Chinua Achebe. Published in 1958, it was one of the first English-language novels about Africa to be written by an African author. This helped counter the predominant narrative of precolonial African societies as primitive or savage, with Achebe instead portraying the people of Umuofia as dignified and sympathetic. Things Fall Apart helped define an entire generation of African literature, and Achebe is often credited with helping to pave the way for future African-born authors in the English-language literary world.

Things Fall Apart is an examination of both the pre- and postcolonial eras of an Igbo village in Nigeria. Through the eyes of Okonkwo, the novel’s protagonist, readers learn about the rich culture and history of the Igbo people. However, when European colonizers arrive, their efforts to enforce their own culture on Okonkwo’s people result in the titular falling apart of tribal society. Achebe has been praised for offering a balanced perspective of African colonization, offering sympathy and regret for the death of precolonial life while also noting the structural weaknesses that allowed Western culture to take root.

A Brief Biography of Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe (1930–2013) was a Nigerian novelist and critic who remains the most read African author in the world. Born and rasied in British colonial Nigeria, Achebe fell in love with literature in university and began writing and teaching. His enormously successful first novel, Things Fall Apart, first published in 1958, has sold millions of copies and has been translated into numerous languages. Achebe’s primary focus has been African identity. In particular, he has been highly critical of the way that Western literature has portrayed native Africans. His work also explores the many detrimental effects of centuries of colonialism on the African continent. In his fiction, essays, criticism, poetry, and even children’s literature, Achebe has questioned not only how the West views Africa but also how Africa views itself. Achebe’s potent social commentary has earned him worldwide acclaim.

Frequently Asked Questions about Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart

One of the main ideas of Things Fall Apart is colonization; Achebe explores this topic throughout the novel. The story is set in Nigeria during the late nineteenth century. The protagonist,...

Latest answer posted September 16, 2020, 12:06 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

In chapter 24 of Things Fall Apart, the District Commissioner sends a group of court messengers to interrupt a meeting of the clansmen of Umuofia and prevent them from organizing a rebellion....

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 12:49 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, first published in 1958, tells the story of the arrival of Europeans to the southeastern part of Nigeria in the late nineteenth century, during what is known as...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 1:23 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo resents his father for being a poor, unmanly, unsuccessful debtor. Okonkwo was ashamed of his father and embarrassed by his behavior, which motivated him to develop a...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 12:03 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo commits two serious crimes, which leads to his ultimate demise. The first serious crime Okonkwo commits takes place in chapter 13, during the funeral of the village's...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 12:26 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is depicted as an extremely hostile, violent man who is afraid of being viewed as weak. Okonkwo's callous demeanor and fear of weakness lead to his demise, as he makes...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 2:02 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is stern and demanding in his relations with all his children and rarely shows affection for any of them. Nonetheless, his favorite is his daughter, Ezinma, a spirited...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 11:32 am (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

In the novel, Ikemefuna is sent to live in Umuofia by a neighboring village as a sacrifice to avoid war. Once Ikemefuna arrives in Umuofia, he is sent to live with Okonkwo, who becomes his...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 2:43 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart displays the tribal culture of the Igbo people as being rich and varied. It is tragic when this ancient society falls apart—or is pulled apart by British colonizers. Nonetheless,...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 1:09 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

When Ojiugo, Okonkwo's youngest wife, fails to prepare his afternoon meal, he beats her so savagely that his other wives and the neighbors hear her cries. The priest of the earth goddess admonishes...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 12:07 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

Ikemefuna's last words are “My father, they have killed me!” He yells them as the clan he’s been given to in exchange for peace is about to kill him. He’s not saying this to his biological father....

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 3:07 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

Under the circumstances, Ekwefi has every right to be bitter and resentful. Life has not dealt her a particularly good hand. She's been especially unfortunate when it comes to having children....

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 12:39 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

In the brutal slaying of Ikemefuna, we see the sins of the father visited upon the son. Okonkwo has been solemnly informed by Ogbuefi Ezeudu, the oldest man in the village, that the Oracle has...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 12:25 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

Though Ikemefuna is not his biological son, Okonkwo still treats him as if he is. In fact, Ikemefuna is more of a son to Okonkwo than his eldest son, the sensitive Nwoye. Ever since he began taking...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 2:00 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

The Oracle has decreed that Ikemefuna, Okonkwo's adopted son, must die. This isn't because of anything the boy has done but because of what his adoptive father has done. Three years previously,...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 11:54 am (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

Okonkwo's suicide is ultimately caused by his inability to come to terms with changes in Igbo society brought about by British colonial rule. Many of the old ways and time-honored traditions are...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 2:22 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart is an appropriate title because of how well it applies to Okonkwo, his life, and his Igbo culture. When readers first meet Okonkwo, the novel's protagonist, they see a self-made...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 12:31 pm (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo dies by his own hand. He hangs himself, in the short term to avoid the ignominy of being tried in a colonial court, but also because of a more general despair at the...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 11:12 am (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

The novel's protagonist, Okonkwo, epitomizes what we would now call toxic masculinity. As he has antiquated ideas when it comes to gender roles, Okonkwo firmly believes that men should be powerful,...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 11:36 am (UTC)

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Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe took the title of Things Fall Apart from W. B. Yeats's poem "The Second Coming," which is about the destruction of European civilization. Achebe makes the point that long before the...

Latest answer posted September 17, 2020, 12:42 pm (UTC)

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Summary