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Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe

Things fall apart (original 1958; edition 2001)

by Chinua Achebe

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14,957335226 (3.74)859
Title:Things fall apart
Authors:Chinua Achebe
Info:London: Penguin Books (2001)
Collections:Read but unowned, Read All Time, Read in 2010
Tags:English Literature, Nigerian Literature, Novel, CASS

Work details

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)

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Chinua Achebe weaves a tale of change in his native Nigeria in his classic Things Fall Apart (1958). He steeps the reader in the Ibo culture of seasons, society, and gods, as we follow the life of the important villager Okonkwo and his family. Change from this incumbent culture comes in the form of British missionaries who ride bicycles, and who bring a message that will disrupt and eventually destroy a way of life and belief. Aside from its ground-breaking setting, this novel’s brilliance lies in its unerring depiction of human nature, and the havoc wreaked on lives when cultures clash.

Achebe harkens us back to the Ibo of the late 19th century. We witness tribal politics, folklore, economics, and religion as we follow a couple of generations Okonkwo’s family. Okonkwo grows up resenting his shiftless father, and as he matures he shows the grit and determination to rise above. He becomes a fierce warrior, an aggressive and acquisitive businessman, and an autocratic paterfamilias. This stands him in good stead in the village, but also demonstrates Achebe’s mastery. Okonkwo is a nuanced, believable protagonist. He treats his family roughly, bemoans his sons, whom he feels lack promise, speaks roughly to his wives and daughters, and casts a jaundiced eye on any display by villagers that lacks manliness.

Okonkwo is not the only character benefiting from Achebe’s deft touch. Okonkwo’s circle of friends, strangers from neighboring villages, his wife’s family, even the British missionaries, all come to life and display real human action and motivation. On this solid base rests the inevitable conflict and disruption brought about with the arrival of exotic white foreigners, with a suspect foreign doctrine.

I found Things Fall Apart a rewarding read. It displays felicitous, energetic language to depict humans acting like humans, and in the larger context, the pain and anger and suspicion when one people would strangle an indigenous culture to “improve and purify” it. If you haven’t taken this novel up, do so by all means, and see why it is honored and its author lionized.

https://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2019/03/things-fall-apart-by-chinua-achebe.h... ( )
  LukeS | Mar 13, 2019 |
Set in the late 1800s in Niger, Okonkwo lived in one of the nine villages of the Igbo people named Umuofia and had managed to become successful on his own by borrowing yam seeds from a richer man and from his mother's family in order to farm his land. He also at one point wrestled the great Amalinze the Cat and threw him from the ring making him famous. His fields flourished and he was able to pay back what he owed and one day he became his own man with three wives and some titles to go with them. His dream is to get all four titles and be the man with the highest honor in the village.

His father was lazy and had no titles and owed money to everyone. Okonkwo was ashamed of his father and while no one held what your father was against you--everyone was their own man--he felt the specter of his father over him and did everything to prevent himself from being like his shiftless father who played the flute and died a dishonorable death.

Okonkwo's first son, Nwoye had a bit of his grandfather in him and Oknokwo tried to beat it out of him with some success. But this son will wind up being a disappointment to him. His daughter, Eximima, by his second wife he believes has the temperament to be a good son but sadly was born a daughter. She also is born very sick until the local medicine man helps her out, which is good since his second wife had had many stillborns and this was her only child.

In another village, a man kills a man from this village's wife so compensation is agreed upon instead of going to war. A woman is sent over to be his wife and a young man is sent over as well. This man is Ikemefuna and he comes to live with Okonkwo for three years until the village has decided what to do with him. He is to be killed, likely because Okonkwo broke the Peace Weak by shooting his gun at his second wife. He pays compensation but that may not be enough, the boy needs to be sacrificed as well. The elder of the village tells Oknokwo that he is not to touch him because the boy calls him father and it would be wrong. But when it comes time to kill him Oknokwo lets his sense of not wanting to look weak overtake him and he strikes the boy causing his own downfall.

I had been looking forward to reading this book because I had heard great things about this book, but I found it rather boring and plodding. It does pick up at the end when the white men come and try to make a mess of things. It will really piss you off, at least it did me. But that section is very small and it's at the very end. He uses the descriptions of the village as building blocks that will be affected by the white people coming in with their religion. This book just didn't live up to expectations. I give it three and a half out of five stars. ( )
  nicolewbrown | Feb 27, 2019 |
I just wrote about books that you butt your head against, again and again in an effort to understand, but this is one that perhaps that process happened more literally than teacher's would have liked. I first encountered this book in middle school, where it was roundly despised, then in College, where it was politely accepted for scrutiny. The problem I've had with Things Fall Apart in the past is how stark the writing is and how thoroughly dislikable Okonkwo manages to become in a very short period of time. Achebe's writing makes Hemingway's feel like Thackeray's and Okonkwo is the archetypical brittle tough guy.

I've always felt I've never been fair to this book though. I enjoyed everything else this particular professor assigned and knew that she wasn't one to have something read just because it was a classic.

Turns out when actually granted some attention, Things Falls Apart is a strong book. Achebe depicts a thriving community, a community bound together by ties of religion, tradition and family that is undermined by the coming of Christian missionaries. Achebe delays their entry for a long time to allow the reader to feel the impact of what is about to be lost. Achebe writes a clear-eyed and concise account of the effects of imperialism from a perspective that for too long had been ignored. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
This book explores the clash of a Native African culture with the European Caucasians. It explains the thoughts and customs of one strong man and his close and extended clan. The disconnect among individuals and cultures is a major theme. The importance of communication, listening and understanding are highlighted. It is well written in an objective voice and was well worth the read. ( )
  DonaldPowell | Feb 5, 2019 |
One of the finest embodiments of African literature that I've ever encountered.
Deserving of every single star. ( )
  Elaine_Omwango | Jan 26, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 323 (next | show all)

Set in the late 19th century, at the height of the "Scramble" for African territories by the great European powers, Things Fall Apart tells the story of Okonkwo, a proud and highly respected Igbo from Umuofia, somewhere near the Lower Niger. Okonkwo's clan are farmers, their complex society a patriarchal, democratic one. Achebe suggests that village life has not changed substantially in generations.

The first part of a trilogy, Things Fall Apart was one of the first African novels to gain worldwide recognition: half a century on, it remains one of the great novels about the colonial era.
[Achebe] describes the many idyllic features of pre-Christian native life with poetry and humor. But his real achievement is his ability to see the strengths and weaknesses of his characters with a true novelist's compassion.

» Add other authors (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chinua Achebeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Appiah, Kwame AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bandele, BiyiIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dicker, JaapTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dicker, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Okeke, UcheIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puigtobella, BernatTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodriguez, EdelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serraillier, IanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vertaalgroep Administratief Centrum BergeykTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werk, Jan Kees van deAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

—W.B. Yeats, "The Second Coming"
First words
Okonkwo was well-known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat.
The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.
There is no story that is not true.
The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.
If I hold her hand she says, Don't Touch!. If I hold her foot she says Don't Touch! But when I hold her waist-beads she pretends not to know.
A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.
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Book description
More than two million copies of Things Fall Apart have been sold in the United States since it was first published here in 1959. Worldwide, there are eight million copies in print in fifty different languages. This is Chinua Achebe's masterpiece and it is often compared to the great Greek tragedies, and currently sells more than one hundred thousand copies a year in the United States.
A simple story of a "strong man" whose life is dominated by fear and anger, Things Fall Apart is written with remarkable economy and subtle irony. Uniquely and richly African, at the same time it reveals Achebe's keen awareness of the human qualities common to men of all times and places.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385474547, Paperback)

One of Chinua Achebe's many achievements in his acclaimed first novel, Things Fall Apart, is his relentlessly unsentimental rendering of Nigerian tribal life before and after the coming of colonialism. First published in 1958, just two years before Nigeria declared independence from Great Britain, the book eschews the obvious temptation of depicting pre-colonial life as a kind of Eden. Instead, Achebe sketches a world in which violence, war, and suffering exist, but are balanced by a strong sense of tradition, ritual, and social coherence. His Ibo protagonist, Okonkwo, is a self-made man. The son of a charming ne'er-do-well, he has worked all his life to overcome his father's weakness and has arrived, finally, at great prosperity and even greater reputation among his fellows in the village of Umuofia. Okonkwo is a champion wrestler, a prosperous farmer, husband to three wives and father to several children. He is also a man who exhibits flaws well-known in Greek tragedy:
Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.
And yet Achebe manages to make this cruel man deeply sympathetic. He is fond of his eldest daughter, and also of Ikemefuna, a young boy sent from another village as compensation for the wrongful death of a young woman from Umuofia. He even begins to feel pride in his eldest son, in whom he has too often seen his own father. Unfortunately, a series of tragic events tests the mettle of this strong man, and it is his fear of weakness that ultimately undoes him.

Achebe does not introduce the theme of colonialism until the last 50 pages or so. By then, Okonkwo has lost everything and been driven into exile. And yet, within the traditions of his culture, he still has hope of redemption. The arrival of missionaries in Umuofia, however, followed by representatives of the colonial government, completely disrupts Ibo culture, and in the chasm between old ways and new, Okonkwo is lost forever. Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:52 -0400)

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[This book is] a simple story of a "strong man" whose life is dominated by fear and anger ... Uniquely ... African, at the same time it reveals [the author's] ... awareness of the human qualities common to men of all times and places.-Back cover.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141023384, 0141186887

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