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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Topic #1

Discuss the significance of Things Fall Apart as a social document and a novel dramatizing traditional Igbo life and its first encounter with colonialism and Christianity at the turn of the twentieth century.


I. Thesis Statement: Things Fall Apart recreates the conflict between European and Igbo cultures at the turn of the twentieth century by focusing on the cataclysmic changes introduced by the forces of colonialism and Christianity.

II. Social and Economic Life of the IgboA. Social structure of the IgboB. Role of men and womenC. Role of marriage and the familyD. Significance of the yam

III. Traditional PoliticsA. Umuofia and the political structureB. Success and personal achievementC. The title-taking systemD. The leadership role of eldersE. The judicial role of egwugwu

IV. Colonial Changes in Economic and Political LifeA. Significance of the palm-oil tradeB. The colonial administrationC. The District CommissionerD. The native courtE. The role of court messengers

V. Traditional Igbo ReligionA. Chukwu, the Supreme Creator GodB. Ani, the Earth goddessC. Agbala and the OraclesD. Ritual sacrificesE. The feminine and masculine principlesF. Ogbanje childrenG. The abandonment of twinsH. The role of the ancestorsI. Titles and reincarnationJ. Children and reincarnation

VI. Christianity and Changes in Social and Religious LifeA. The missionary factorB. The first Igbo Christians: osu, mothers of twins, unsuccessful menC. ZealotsD. Conflicts with traditional beliefsE. Breakup of the Igbo clan

VII. The Author’s Recreation of History through Literary Techniques (Optional)A. Characterization of OkonkwoB. Use of proverbsC. Use of stories within the textD. Significance of the title in relationship to “The Second Coming”

VIII. ConclusionA. The use of literature to record historyB. The author’s purpose and point of view

Topic #2

Prove that Okonkwo, a talented Igbo man who strives to succeed in the traditional world, is a microcosm of Igbo society because he is destroyed by internal and external forces.


I. Thesis Statement: Like Igbo society at the turn of the century, Okonkwo is destroyed by internal and external forces. He is inflexible and unable to balance the masculine and feminine principles of traditional Igbo life, and he resists the external forces of European imperialism and Christianity.

II. OkonkwoA. Desire to succeedB. Fear of failureC. Comparison with Unoka and Nwoye

III. Okonkwo’s Inability to Balance Feminine and Masculine EnergiesA. Crimes against the Earth Goddess1. Treatment of Ojiugo during the Week of Peace2. Treatment of Ekwefi during the New Yam Festival3. Participation in Ikemefuna’s ritual murder4. Accidental killing of Ezeudu’s sonB. Exile1. Superficial understanding of the concept “Mother is Supreme”2. Determination to succeed through hard workC. Alienation of Nwoye

IV. Conflict with European Imperialism and ChristianityA. Hatred of ChristiansB. Conflict with Reverend SmithC. Conflict with native courtD. Decapitation of court messenger

V. Tensions within Igbo SocietyA. Title-taking system measuring successB. Ritual sacrificeC. Abandonment of twinsD. Treatment of osuE. Banishment for involuntary manslaughter

VI. Impact of Christianity and European ImperialismA. Marginalized Igbos become ChristianB. Native courts hold power

VII. ConclusionA. Okonkwo is destroyed by self and external forcesB. Igbo society falls apart due to internal tensions and external forcesC. Okonkwo is a microcosm of Igbo society at the turn of the twentieth century

Topic #3

Prove that Okonkwo is a tragic hero. Explain how Okonkwo encompasses the pathos of a culture undergoing cataclysmic...

(This entire section contains 781 words.)

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change. How does Okonkwo’s story evoke both pity and fear? Analyze Okonkwo’s tragic flaw and subsequent downfall.

OutlineI. Thesis Statement: Okonkwo achieves the stature of a tragic hero, evokes both pity and fear, and suffers a downfall because of his fear of failure, his inflexibility in living traditional Igbo life, and his inability to adapt to new ideas.

II. Heroic StatureA. Physical strength and appearanceB. Personal achievementsC. Success: material wealth, titles, prestigeD. Leadership in the clanE. Drive to achieve immortality and take the highest titles in the land

III. PityA. Mediocre chiB. Fear of failureC. Contrast with Unoka and NwoyeD. Inability to express loveE. Inability to balance the masculine and feminine energies in Igbo lifeF. Accidental killing of Ezeudu’s sonG. Exile in Mbanta

IV. DisapprovalA. Harsh treatment of wives and childrenB. Ritual murder of IkemefunaC. Alienation of NwoyeD. Anger against the ChristiansE. Anger against the white menF. Violent decapitation of court messenger

V. Tragic FlawA. Inability to balance feminine and masculine energiesB. Inflexibility in living traditional Igbo lifeC. Inability to adapt to new ideas

VI. DownfallA. Destabilization of Okonkwo and Igbo institutions by colonial powersB. Inability to unite the Igbo people against the white manC. Inability to save Igbo life and culture from falling apartD. SuicideE. BurialF. Reduction to paragraph in commissioner’s book

VII. ConclusionA. Comparison of Okonkwo to Unoka, sensitive musicianB. Comparison of Okonkwo to Ezeudu, the revered elderC. Comparison of Okonkwo to Obierika, his balanced friend


Critical Context