Critical Context

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Last Updated on January 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 206

Things Fall Apart has been called the archetypal African novel. It was the first West African novel written in English that succeeded in giving European readers a sympathetic understanding of the indigenous culture, which had been occupied but not understood for one hundred years. Critics have praised its protagonist’s heroic...

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Things Fall Apart has been called the archetypal African novel. It was the first West African novel written in English that succeeded in giving European readers a sympathetic understanding of the indigenous culture, which had been occupied but not understood for one hundred years. Critics have praised its protagonist’s heroic but futile stand against colonialism, its restrained prose style, and Achebe’s purposeful integration of Igbo proverbs. Achebe was attempting to create the communal, functional, utilitarian art he admired and that he believed represented the traditional purpose of art in Igbo society. He consciously wrote Things Fall Apart as part of the cultural revolution that was moving in step with the political revolution that led to Nigerian independence in 1960. The primary goals of this cultural revolution were to rediscover the Igbo past and to undermine the colonial stereotypes represented in European literature about Africa.

On a more personal level, Things Fall Apart is also Achebe’s attempt to atone for his own Europeanization. A Christian with a coveted university education, Achebe had at one time dismissed the importance of his own culture. Things Fall Apart is an effort to rediscover the riches of Nigerian history, celebrate the cultural past, and mourn what has been lost.

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