Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. New York, New York Copyright 1959 Author Biography Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, or Chinua Achebe, was born November 16, 1930, in Ogidi, Nigeria. His parents were Janet N. Achebe, and Isaiah Okafo, a teacher in a missionary school. Mr. Achebe was educated at the University College of Ibadan, but also attended Government College in 1944. He wrote his first novel, Things Fall Apart, in 1958. During the Biafran War, he was in the Biafran government service. After the war, Mr. Achebe taught at several universities, both in Nigeria and in the United States. In 1967 he cofounded a publishing company with a fellow author, Christopher Okigbo. Mr. Achebe’s later works include No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, and Anthills of the Savannah. A serious car accident left Mr. Achebe paralyzed from the waist down in 1990. The majority of his novels deal with Africans struggle to free themselves from European colonial and political influences, due to his experiences in the Biafran War and the Nigerian Civil War. Main Characters Okonkwo- Okonkwo is the main character in the novel. He is a distinguished man in the clan, and has been since a young age, when he established himself as a skilled wrestler. He had a very lazy father, and this was a source of much embarrassment to him, so to overcome this, he is an overbearing husband, and father. He feels that he always has to prove that he is different than his father, which is eventually his downfall. Unoka- Unoka is Okonkwo’s father. He was a very lazy man and always an embarrassment to his family, especially his son. He is the reason that Okonkwo is so scared of failing. Nwoye- Nwoye is Okonkwo’s son, and he is lazy and complacent, like his grandfather. Okonkwo’s way of changing this is to be especially hard on him, which drives him further away, eventually to join the missionaries. Ezinma- Ezinma is Okonkwo’s daughter, and he is proud of her, even though he won’t show this because he thinks that it is a weakness. She is smart and pretty. Okonkwo wishes that she were a boy so that he could pass on his knowledge and fortune to her. Mr. Brown- Mr. Brown is the first missionary to arrive in Umuofia. He is nice enough to the clan, so they decide to let him stay, but soon enough he brings others, both from the clan and from outside, into the church. The missionaries are what eventually bring Okonkwo to take his own life. Principal Points of Plot Conflict- The conflict in the novel Things Fall Apart is the conflict that Okonkwo has a lazy father and his struggle to be different and better than him. Complication- The climax of the novel is when Okonkwo accidentally shoots a member of the clan and is banished for seven years. This is the climax because it signals the beginning of Okonkwo’s fall from a distinguished member of the clan. Climax- The complication in the novel is when the missionaries come to Umuofia and create tension among the clan and between the clan and the church. Conclusion- The conclusion in Things Fall Apart is when Okonkwo hangs himself in a tree. This is the ultimate way for him to differentiate himself from his father. Theme The theme of Things Fall Apart is that you can never be satisfied with yourself if you are constantly trying to show people that you are something that you are not. Okonkwo had a lazy father, a very embarrassing thing in his culture. He feels that somehow, he must show people that he is better than that, so he works very hard to make a name for himself. Once he has done that, he is afraid to let up and enjoy his success, because he thinks people will respect him less if he doesn’t work as hard. Therefore, Okonkwo can never be satisfied with himself because he is constantly trying to show people that he is something that he is not. The only way that he thinks he can let up this façade is when he is dead, which is how he resolves his problem. Proof of this is when he kills himself because he cannot deal witht the fact that the missionaries have taken over his village. Five Quotes From the Novel 1. The narrator is talking. Chapter Three With a father like Unoka, Okonkwo did not have the start in life, which many young men had. He neither inherited a barn nor a title, nor even a young wife. But in spite of these disadvantages, he had begun even in his father’s lifetime to lay the foundations of a prosperous future. It was slow and painful. But he threw himself into it like one possessed. And indeed he was possessed by the fear of his father’s contemptible life and shameful death. This is an important excerpt from the novel because it basically explains why Okonkwo acts the way he does and why he is so determined not to take the same path as his father. It also sets the tone for the novel and lets the reader know what Okonkwo is like. 2. Mr. Kiaga is talking. Chapter Eighteen “Unless you shave off the mark of your heathen belief I will not admit you into the church,” said Mr. Kiaga. “You fear that you will die. Why should that be? How are you different from other men who shave their hair? The same god created you and them. But they have cast you out like lepers. It is against the will of God, who has promised everlasting life to all who believe in His holy name. The heathen say you will die if you do this or that, and you are afraid. They said I would die if I built my church on this ground. Am I dead? They said I would die if I took care of the twins. I am still alive. The heathen speak nothing but falsehood. Only the word of our God is true.” This quote is important because it shows not only the attitude of the Christians toward the beliefs of the Ibo, but also how they were treated. The Ibo had many customs that were sacred and important to them, but the Christians did not respect them or their culture and used the fact that not all of their beliefs were true against them by taking dissidents from the clan and adopting them into the church. 3. Obierika is talking. Chapter Twenty “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.” This quote is important because it is the first time that the clan realizes that it is the white man that is the problem, and it is he that is causing the clan to fall apart. It is then that they know they must remove the white man and his church from their midst to save themselves. 4. Ajofia is talking. Chapter Twenty Two “Tell the white man that we will not do him any harm,” he said to the interpreter. “Tell him to go back to his house and leave us alone. We liked his brother who was with us before. He was foolish, but we liked him, so for his sake we shall not harm his brother. But this shrine which he built must be destroyed. It bred untold abominations and we have come to put an end to it.” He turned to his comrades. “Fathers of Umuofia, I salute you;” and they replied with one guttural voice. He turned again to the missionary. “You can stay with us if you like our ways. You can worship your own god. It is good that a man should worship the gods and the spirits of his fathers. Go back to your house so that you may not be hurt. Our anger is great but we have held it down so that we can talk to you.” This is an important excerpt from the book because it shows how the natives tried to negotiate with the white men peacefully. All they wanted was for the clan to return to the way it was before the white men came, and they even agreed to let the white men stay and practice their religion as long as they didn’t bother anyone. But the Christians had to have everything, so there was a conflict. 5.Obierika is talking. Chapter Twenty Five Obierika, who had been gazing steadily at his friend’s dangling body, turned suddenly to the District Commissioner and said ferociously: “ That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself ;and now he will be buried like a dog….” He could not say anymore. His voice trembled and choked his words. This quote is significant because it shows the falling apart of the clan as a whole. Okonkwo was a one of the strongest men in Umuofia, both in physical strength and mental determination. His taking his own life is a sign that the natives are losing the battle against the stronger white men. If he is not strong enough to endure the white men, than it is obvious that no one else in Umuofia will last much longer.