Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

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Written in 1959 by a native Nigerian, Things Fall Apart was maybe the first really non-Western novel that I ever read, during my first quarter at Stanford. I was completely blown away by the book then, and wanted to re-read it now to see what I thought (I’ve also been reading some histories of Africa lately that I need to post about, so am interested in other points of view).

The title is taken from a poem called “The Second Coming”, by W.B. Yeats — an incredibly powerful poem — here are the lines from it that are quoted at the beginning of the book:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The narrative tells the story of Okonkwo — a leader among his tribe and the surrounding towns. As the book starts, Okonkwo thinks a lot about how much better he’s become than his father was — how much richer, how much stronger, and how much more respected. Given the title, you can probably imagine how it goes from there.

I was struck reading this book that it really tells two stories: one that’s really about Africans and the introduction of outsiders, colonizers, and new technologies, but another that’s more universal about how hard it is to hang on to the past and fight against change. And whether it’s worth it or not.

Anyway, I like this novel now as much as I did when I read it 16 years ago — very glad to have gone back to it. It’s such a simple story but really very powerful.

17 Replies to “Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe”

  1. This novel shows a man trying to get to higher power. It seems that something is always bringing him down or in his way of succeeding.

  2. The book is a classic. I think that’s why a lot of people who re-read it years later like it because it’s a good story. That is a good observation, how things are told in two stories. It says that some are stuck in the past.

  3. i think this book is a m a z i n g. it shows how people are afraid of change, and what inspired chinua to write this book.

  4. this book is soooo great!!!!! i love books about tribal people and overcoming struggles of life. i give it a BIG smooch 🙂

  5. This novel shows a man trying to get to higher power. It seems that something is always bringing him down or in his way of succeeding.

  6. The book is a classic. I think that’s why a lot of people who re-read it years later like it because it’s a good story. That is a good observation, how things are told in two stories. It says that some are stuck in the past.

  7. i think this book is a m a z i n g. it shows how people are afraid of change, and what inspired chinua to write this book.

  8. this book is soooo great!!!!! i love books about tribal people and overcoming struggles of life. i give it a BIG smooch 🙂

  9. I also think that the novel Things Fall Apart is a very powerful book. I like the fact that it is an easy read because it can be read by people of all ages and after reading it, an adolescent can get the same effect from the book as an adult can. History is not one of my strong or favorite subjects, but I can definitely say that I enjoyed Things Fall Apart. The novel kept my attention the entire time. Learning about how different the Igbo culture is, was very interesting. I like how Achebe uses a lot of detailed words to describe the different rituals, and customs of the Igbo culture. For example, when Achebe explains to the reader about the people in the village’s personal chi or God, he talks about how if “if your chi was not made for great things, then you would not be great” (130). That is quite a different belief than what most Americans believe. I found that part extremely interesting, and it really opened my eyes to the different traditions of a specific African culture.Another thing that I never thought about was how the Christian missionaries basically destroyed the Igbo culture. Whenever I think about missionaries I always think about what a great job they do when trying to convert people to Christianity. I never think about the other side of the conversion, like just how many people and families the missionaries are destroying by making them change their lifestyle. Things Fall Apart is a novel that showed me the other side of the missionaries. It was very saddening to watch a culture “fall apart” all because of a new group of people arriving.

  10. I also think that the novel Things Fall Apart is a very powerful book. I like the fact that it is an easy read because it can be read by people of all ages and after reading it, an adolescent can get the same effect from the book as an adult can. History is not one of my strong or favorite subjects, but I can definitely say that I enjoyed Things Fall Apart. The novel kept my attention the entire time. Learning about how different the Igbo culture is, was very interesting. I like how Achebe uses a lot of detailed words to describe the different rituals, and customs of the Igbo culture. For example, when Achebe explains to the reader about the people in the village’s personal chi or God, he talks about how if “if your chi was not made for great things, then you would not be great” (130). That is quite a different belief than what most Americans believe. I found that part extremely interesting, and it really opened my eyes to the different traditions of a specific African culture.
    Another thing that I never thought about was how the Christian missionaries basically destroyed the Igbo culture. Whenever I think about missionaries I always think about what a great job they do when trying to convert people to Christianity. I never think about the other side of the conversion, like just how many people and families the missionaries are destroying by making them change their lifestyle. Things Fall Apart is a novel that showed me the other side of the missionaries. It was very saddening to watch a culture “fall apart” all because of a new group of people arriving.

  11. I enjoyed reading Things Fall Apart because it told a great story and was not difficult at all to read. After reading Things Fall Apart I had a whole new perspective on the way of life of the Igbo people, and how an entire culture can be completely ruined by people, the white missionaries, who do not understand the peoples’ way of life. I really enjoyed learning about the Igbo culture and the small things that the Igbo do that actually mean a whole lot to them. For example, when Okonkwo visits Nwakibie to discuss yams, many significant customs occur. Palm-wine, which is brought by Okonkwo, is drunk in a certain order that shows rank in the Igbo society. The person, who brought the palm-wine, Okonkwo, drinks first to make sure there is nothing wrong with it. The eldest then drink the palm-wine then the youngest drinks it. Once the men and boys have drunk the palm-wine Nwakibie’s wives are allowed to drink some. Although, the wives must kneel before Namibia and say his name before they are allowed to drink the palm-wine. This shows the rank that is used throughout the whole Igbo culture. These are the small things that I really enjoyed reading and learning about during the book. Things Fall Apart was a book written not only to show the struggles of one African village it was written to show the difficulties that all of these villages go through when people not from the village want the village people to change their ways of life. This is shown in Things Fall Apart when the Christian Missionaries come to Umuofia to try and convert the Igbo people into Christians. All that these white people did was appeal to the people that would definitely agree with them and then the village will eventually fall to the Christian missionaries. In Umuofia the missionaries appealed to the women that had given birth to twins and people that were against violence. Once the missionaries gained the respect from the Igbo people the whole village was basically converted into the Christian religion. This is because if the Igbo people that did not want change were to try and revolt against the Christians it would end up being a civil war because the Igbo that converted would fight for the Christians. This is what tore and tears villages apart in the past and today. Chinua Achebe did a wonderful job showing the hardships that many African villages went through and still goes through today. I really enjoyed reading Things Fall Apart and would recommend it to any person looking to read a great book written by an even better author.

  12. I enjoyed reading Things Fall Apart because it told a great story and was not difficult at all to read. After reading Things Fall Apart I had a whole new perspective on the way of life of the Igbo people, and how an entire culture can be completely ruined by people, the white missionaries, who do not understand the peoples’ way of life. I really enjoyed learning about the Igbo culture and the small things that the Igbo do that actually mean a whole lot to them. For example, when Okonkwo visits Nwakibie to discuss yams, many significant customs occur. Palm-wine, which is brought by Okonkwo, is drunk in a certain order that shows rank in the Igbo society. The person, who brought the palm-wine, Okonkwo, drinks first to make sure there is nothing wrong with it. The eldest then drink the palm-wine then the youngest drinks it. Once the men and boys have drunk the palm-wine Nwakibie’s wives are allowed to drink some. Although, the wives must kneel before Namibia and say his name before they are allowed to drink the palm-wine. This shows the rank that is used throughout the whole Igbo culture. These are the small things that I really enjoyed reading and learning about during the book.
    Things Fall Apart was a book written not only to show the struggles of one African village it was written to show the difficulties that all of these villages go through when people not from the village want the village people to change their ways of life. This is shown in Things Fall Apart when the Christian Missionaries come to Umuofia to try and convert the Igbo people into Christians. All that these white people did was appeal to the people that would definitely agree with them and then the village will eventually fall to the Christian missionaries. In Umuofia the missionaries appealed to the women that had given birth to twins and people that were against violence. Once the missionaries gained the respect from the Igbo people the whole village was basically converted into the Christian religion. This is because if the Igbo people that did not want change were to try and revolt against the Christians it would end up being a civil war because the Igbo that converted would fight for the Christians. This is what tore and tears villages apart in the past and today. Chinua Achebe did a wonderful job showing the hardships that many African villages went through and still goes through today. I really enjoyed reading Things Fall Apart and would recommend it to any person looking to read a great book written by an even better author.

  13. Just when you think you have read it all, then you find out just how much escaped your attention. Things fall apart is a masterpiece. Yes, so captivating I have to travel to the home the icon that penned this masterpiece!!!

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