Things Fall Apart

ISBN: 0273012169
ISBN 13: 9780273012160
By: Chinua Achebe

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About this book

Things Fall Apart is an English-language novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe published in 1958 by William Heinemann Ltd in the UK; in 1962, it was also the first work published in Heinemann's African Writers Series. Things Fall Apart is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, one of the first to receive global critical acclaim. The title of the novel comes from William Butler Yeats' poem "The Second Coming".Set in pre-colonial Nigeria in the 1890s, Things Fall Apart highlights the clash between colonialism and traditional culture. The novel shows the life of Okonkwo, a leader and local wrestling champion in Umuofia—one of a fictional group of nine villages in Nigeria, inhabited by the Igbo people (in the novel, "Ibo"). It describes his family and personal history, the customs and society of the Igbo, and the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on the Igbo community during the late nineteenth century.

Reader's Thoughts


My God, this book is depressing. If you ever need an example of how colonialists and missionaries can destroy a native village, this is Exhibit A. The first part of the book follows Okonkwo, who grows up to be a strong leader in his clan in Nigeria, but several events change his course. The stories are beautifully told and are filled with descriptive imagery, but Okonkwo is such a stubborn man and he bullies everyone around him that it is impossible to like the character. The final part of the book tells what happens when British missionaries come to the area and impose their customs and Christianity on the villagers. This is an exchange between Okonkwo and a friend:"Does the white man understand our custom about land?""How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad, and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? 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."Chinua Achebe died last week. In his obituary in The New York Times, there was a quote from Kwame Anthony Appiah that made me want to read this book: “It would be impossible to say how ‘Things Fall Apart’ influenced African writing ... It would be like asking how Shakespeare influenced English writers or Pushkin influenced Russians.”


الأشياء تتداعى يبدو أنني لا أتعلم من الدروس!! أجلت الكتابة عن هذا الكتاب كثيراً، انتهيت من قراءته في نوفمبر الماضي، وها قد مرت سبعة أشهر وهو ينتظر على مكتبي بإذعان!! قرأت كثيراً وكتبت كثيراً، ولكنه رغم جماله وقوته بقي مؤجلاً، فقط لأنني ويا للحمق كنت أرغب في أن أكتب عنه أفضل، وهو ليس لوحده في هذا المصير!! هناك كتب أخرى أجلت الكتابة عنها أيضاً، حتى فقدت الرغبة في ذلك وأعدتها إلى مكانها الدافئ في مكتبتي، ولكن قصة أوكونكوو لن تعيش هذا المصير، لن أفقد الرغبة في الكتابة عنها. أول ما فتنني في رواية غينوا أتشيبي هو عنوانها الملهم (الأشياء تتداعى) والذي استقاه من قصيدة لييتس، يا له من وصف حقيقي لسقوط وانتهاء عالم ما، عشنا فيه وظننا أنه دائم لا يزول، ولكن ها هو يتداعى وينتهي مخلفاً أنقاضاً هنا وهناك في ثقافتنا. نشر غينوا أتشيبي الروائي النيجيري روايته هذه سنة 1958 م، باللغة الإنجليزية وسرعان ما صارت من أشهر الروايات الأفريقية، كما قررت كمنهج دراسي في كثير من الدول الأفريقية. في هذه الرواية نعيش مع أوكونكوو الرجل القوي الذي بنى نفسه من الصفر وصار أقوى رجل في قريته، نعيش في عالم القرية الأفريقية ما قبل الاستعمار، دينها وعاداتها وخرافاتها، ثم تبدأ التحولات في الظهور، وهو ما يقلق أوكونكوو فيقف في وجهها، ويقاتل للحفاظ على عالمه كما عرفه، ولكن تتغير العادات، ويتغير الدين بازدياد المعتنقين للمسيحية، وعندما يقتل أوكونكوو مبعوثاً من الحكومة الاستعمارية تكون مغامرته قد انتهت. نهاية الرواية من أجمل النهايات والتي ذكرتني بنهاية (كل شيء هادئ على الجبهة الغربية) لإريك ماريا ريماك، فعلاً كل شيء يتداعى يا أوكونكوو.


I bought “Things Fall Apart” and was excited and eager to read it knowing that (1) it has sold millions and millions of copies since its debut in 1958, (2) has since stood as a symbol of a crown achievement of African literature, and (3) has sort of turned Chinua Achebe into a Hemingway of Africa. But as life has taught us many times before: great expectations come with greater disappointments. While “Things Fall Apart” never quite fell apart it never really took off either. But I should be more forgiving and gentler here considering that it is a debut novel written in the late ‘50s by a young African writer in a second language about his own native country Nigeria at the dawn of a new era—the birth of a free and independent Africa. Seen through this prism, "Things Fall Apart" was a remarkable attempt by Achebe to paint the story of Nigeria on the big canvas of Africa’s pre-and post-colonialism. Briefly, “Things Fall Apart” tells a story of the tragic rise and fall of a strong, masculine tribal man Okonkwo, a champion wrestler, a successful farmer, the son of an effeminate, failing father, and the husband of three wives and a half dozen children, who vowed to take charge of his own destiny but instead lost it to a deep fear of failure and frailty. Major themes thread through the book – the tension between the old and the new, tradition and modernism, tribalism and colonialism. The fate of Africa is like the fate of Okonkwo himself – tragic but defiant. "Things Fall Apart" is an easy read—the writing is lucid and simple — and the book provides great insights into Africa’s history though as a work of fiction it didn’t leave much of an imprint on me. Maybe Achebe’s another "so-called" masterpiece “Arrow of God” could do what “Things Fall Apart” didn’t—lift me up and take me away.


Like the bloom of critically-successful Native American novels of the late seventies, this book does not come from an alien culture. It does not represent an original or alternative storytelling tradition. This is literature that has already been colonized. It has already moved from the oral to the written. Achebe wrote it in English, and gave it the form of the quintessential Western novel.I don't mean to say that it fails to represent the African cultural experience, but in Achebe's book, it is a culture already colonized, already subjugated; the waters have been muddied. Normally, when I read a book about another culture, it is full of surprising details which show the differences between that culture and mine.Whether a Japanese Novel, a Mayan myth, or a Hindu epic, there are always parts which show an alternate way of thought, and of life. I know that the many cultures of Africa are no less complex: they have their own vast histories, empires, and philosophies. Sadly, they kept no written histories that we know, and archaeological efforts have been foiled by harsh terrain and political unrest, so we have only scant details of those numerous great traditions.But I did not find in Achebe's work any hints of a great, unique culture. Everything in the story was recognizable, more familiar in style than great foreign works, more familiar than other African stories I have heard, more familiar even than the works of other Western cultures, such as Greek Drama, the politics of Tacitus, or Medieval dream analysis.The book takes a recognizably tragic form, with the inevitable fall of the centrally-flawed man as featured by the Greeks and Shakespeare. It is a tale of personal disintegration representing the loss of culture, and of purpose. It is an existential mode seen in Arthur Miller, Joseph Heller, and J.D. Salinger.Achebe shows his hand a bit with the title, taken from one of the most famous poems in the English canon. Achebe reminds us that he is the consummate western man of letters, educated in the style of the West, and the story he tells should be familiar to us. Ever since Socrates drank the hemlock, the west has had a complex relationship with its remarkable minds. They are held up one moment, and destroyed the next.Likewise, the experience of Achebe and Africa is not new--it is the same exertion of religious and moral dominance that was forced upon Ireland and America. The same dominant force of any power that sought to extend itself, and to absorb its new subjects.Like James Joyce, Achebe writes of the struggles both of his culture and of himself as an artist. His existentialism is remarkable for its completeness. There is no character who is wholly sympathetic, nor wholly vile. There is no culture or point of view which is either elevated or vilified.Achebe is extremely fair, presenting the flaws of all men, and of the organizations under which they live, be they Western or African in origin. Like Heller or Miller, his representation of mankind is almost unfailingly negative. Small moments of beauty, joy, or innocence are always mitigated. They exist only in the inflated egos of the characters, or the moralizing ideals of the culture.Unlike Miller, he does not give us the chance to sympathize. There are not those quiet moments of introspection that make 'Death of a Salesman' so personally tragic. Unlike Heller, Achebe does not contrast the overwhelming weight of loss with sardonic and wry humor. This is not the hyperbole of Belinda's lock, nor the mad passion of Hamlet.Achebe's characters are not able to find their own meaning in hopelessness, nor do they struggle to find it and fail, they cannot even laugh at themselves. They persist only through naivete and escapism, and since the reader sees through them, we see that this world has only despondence and delusion.The constant reminder of this disappointment makes the book difficult to connect with. Since all the hope we are given is almost immediately false, there is little dynamic possibility. Everything is already lost, we only wait on the characters to realize it.It is difficult to court the reader's sympathy when there is nothing left to be hopeful for. With no counterpoint to despondence--not even a false one--it is hard to create narrative depth, to reveal, or to surprise. Trying to write a climax through such a pervasive depression is like trying to raise a mountain in a valley.No matter how hard they try, there is no visible path to success. Nothing is certain, and the odds against are often overwhelming. Achebe felt this doubly, as an author and a colonized citizen. He succeeds in presenting hopelessness, sometimes reaching Sysiphean Absurdism, but with too few grains to weigh in the scale against it, his tale presents only a part of the human experience.Though we may know that others suffer, this is not the same as comprehending their suffering. The mother who says 'eat your peas, kids are starving in Africa' succeeds more through misdirection than by revealing the inequalities of politics and the human state.Achebe presents suffering to us, but it is not sympathetic; we see it, but are not invited to feel it. His world loses depth and dimension, becomes scattered, and while this does show us the way that things may fall apart, particularly all things human, this work is more an exercise in nihilism than a representation of the human experience.


I'm a compulsive book marker. I underline and annotate so intently that, after a few reads, a book becomes fairly worthless to me for anything but study. My copy of TFA has, over the years, become such a text--a palimpsest in which I can no longer read the text itself and am forced instead to read what remains, the records of my previous readings of the text. This year, I was briefly without my well-worn copy and purchased a new one--crisp and freshie fresh. The result is that I was able to give this text what is perhaps my second first reading. Once I directly confronted the text itself again, it struck me with the wamping, whumping force that made me love this novel the first time. Few books infuriate me as effectively and fewer still stir up the storm of emotions this one does. By the time I was done, I was so emotionally spent that a bowl of pounded yams could have thrown me in a wrestling match.

M.L. Rudolph

1959. Love it or hate it, Achebe's tale of a flawed tribal patriarch is a powerful and important contribution to twentieth century literature.Think back to 1959. Liberation from colonial masters had not yet swept the African continent when this book appeared, but the pressures were building. The US civil rights movement had not yet erupted, but the forces were in motion. Communism and capitalism were fighting a pitched battle for control of hearts and minds, for bodies and land, around the world. Africans would suffer under the proxy wars waged there to keep the Cold War cold.Achebe tells the tale of Okonkwo, a young man of some fame throughout the nine villages and beyond, for his wrestling prowess. He is a product of his land, his culture, his religion, and his people. He represents a way of life which admires and rewards strength, loyalty, hard work, a strong hand, and strict adherence to a social code.He builds his life, takes wives, works his land, produces boys and girls to honor and carry on his legacy. When duty to the tribe makes demands, he must respond even if that response requires great personal sacrifice.You can't read this book through the prism of your own experience. Part of the mystery of fiction from cultures far afield from your own is the chance it affords to consider how men and women of a certain time and place grappled with the very human issue of living within an exotic social group.Consider your own social group, and imagine how you would explain your daily and exceptional actions to someone from another religion, from another country, from another language group, from another generation, from another century. Where would you start? Perhaps by considering how you spend a normal day, then how you arrived at the great choices that formed your life. That's a helluva task to set yourself. In my humble opinion, that was the task Achebe set for himself in writing this book.

Malak Alrashed

This book absolutely falls under the category of "For Nigerians Only" because the writer takes you to a whole new world, a world of its own customs and I like that I love to read about other cultures and customs, but here in this book the writer doesn't introduce these customs properly before telling the story. For example: there's something mentioned in the book called The Holy Week which is clearly a sacred time when Nigerians are no longer allowed to fight or argue, but when exactly this week is? Every year? Every month? And why do they do it? Is it a part of the culture or of the religion there? These information are important to me! Or why it is so normal to the women of Nigeria to get beaten by their husbands? And there're so many things that are not explained well in the book I'm sure anyone who is not quite familiar with the culture of Nigeria would find it pretty difficult to keep track.Moreover, the frequent untranslated words and the names of the characters are just confusing! One should stick to ONE LANGUAGE if heshe is to write fiction.Now that I cleared out some points, there are still some things that annoyed me in the book, but I still can't find out what exactly they are. After finishing the book I went to Wikipedia and read the plot summary & I was affected by the summary more than the book itself! I Can't figure out why I mean the writing style is pretty simple, but I felt bored and puzzled while reading it. Sorry.


The fact that this book sympathizes with yams more than it does the victims of imperialism is kind of shocking to me. I mean, I could sit here and praise Achebe for being a person of colour who really made it, because he did, and that deserves recognition, but does that mean I have to praise the content of this book? Because truth be told, I don't understand it. I don't understand how a book like this can manage to project the message that white = civilized, and black = barbarian. Maybe I missed something, here. Maybe I missed the big message I was supposed to have drawn from this book. Or maybe this book is just plain bad, and all these English teachers preaching about this over-hyped tripe being a classic are simply too afraid to address the fact that the writing is awful, characterization poor and the overall point completely muddled and blurred to the point of no return. The fact that this book is being praised by white teachers in front of white kids is kind of frightening, because what is it doing? It's not changing anyone's mind about imperialism. All it's doing is magnifying the less ideal parts of tribal life, and minimizing the damage done to said tribal life by white imperialism. This book literally rationalizes white violence and it has this really weird and sort of scary "if you can't beat 'em, join em" mentality (remember Nwoye? All we see is abuse when he's living with his black family, and then when the white people take him in, suddenly all his problems are solved and he's on the path to godliness. What a safe message to project on to the white west, right? It's not like we live in a culture that is desperate to associate black parenting with abuse.)The unsympathetic black characters just really drive this surprisingly racist message home. Was I supposed to give a shit that Okonkwo killed himself? He got what he deserved. I'm 100% positive that I was not supposed to be cheering for the death of the protagonist, but I couldn't help it. He was the most painful, headache-inducing person to waste time reading about. The author threw in so much blatantly obvious hubris that Okonkwo quit being interesting and became a rakey asshole. There comes a point where you have to let go and stop trying to force yourself to sympathize. It was clear, at the point of Okonkwo's death, that we weren't supposed to care anyway. Okonkwo is just another caricature of the Big Bad Black Man. A caricature that has been encouraging violence, murder and excessive punishment by the judicial system against men of colour since...well, forever. I don't want to bring up Florida, but can I please bring up Florida?It's not even like this book was well-written. It was heinously boring and slow, and things happened just for the sake of it. For example, the wedding served no plot purpose, and Okonkwo's exile just happened. The boy died in like, one paragraph, and then suddenly Okonkwo was in the other village, feeling sorry for himself and giving his children inappropriate names. That's another thing that got me; unimportant things took forever to happen, while big events were whisked away in a few sentences. That's bad pacing. That's bad writing, period.The only character I actually connected with was Nwoye, and this is a problem. It's a problem because Nwoye was the only character that anyone connected with, and he is a convert. He has essentially left his black tribal upbringing behind and joined the white imperalist church, and what drove him away was Okonkwo's abuse and the "really nice white guys". This dichotomy of Big Bad Black Men/Good God-Fearing White Men is exactly why Nwoye being one of the very few sympathetic characters is a problem - because the conflicting characterization of Nwoye and Okonkwo does nothing but cast the African tribal life that Nwoye was born into in a negative light. Good for Nwoye, the white readers say, as he joins the white church. Good for him for escaping the abusive hand of his black family! Nwoye is not white at all, and this reinforces the message even more powerfully: look at the nice white people taking in that black boy. Wow, how charitable of them!This White Guy Jesus complex is woven throughout this book in such an incredibly disturbing way. It's bad enough reading it as part of the story, but seeing it as something written by a Nigerian person is horrible. This is internalized racism at it's most frightening. Unsurprisingly, this book is also rife with horrific sexism, and it's that same sexism that only serves to promote this book's message: that black is bad. The black women in this book are abused in awful, disgusting ways, so much so that it's uncomfortable to watch. It's not about "look what the white men did to the black women" because the black women in this book only suffer under the authority of the black men. What is this reinforcing? Oh, yeah. Big Bad Black Man. Never mind that the women have absolutely no agency and no characteristics other than the creative ways in which they are abused. Ezinma is portrayed as having spunk, but to what end? All we expect for her is to be abused. How is this even accurate? White male imperialists were storming African countries and raping every black woman they could find. Where is this discussed? Nowhere. All we see are abusive black men and quiet justified white men. And in the background of it all? Commodified black women. They have no voice and their stories have no point, and all they do is give Okonkwo a reason to bitch and moan. All the women are there for is to be obstacles in the male characters' lives. How the hell is this okay?Granted, this was forced ENG3U reading. My teacher told me it was amazing, and this could mean two things: firstly, her white guilt was getting the better of her, or secondly, she wasn't doing her job properly. Because her job should not be to nod her head and feed her students racist/sexist crap stamped with the "classic" label. Her job ought to be instilling a profound knowledge and love of literature within her students, and that is what being critical of literature is all about.I freely admit that I hate this book. I hate what it represents and I hate that it's pretending to be a revolutionary piece of work when in fact it's just a glorification of the White Savior Complex. I'd rather not read about nice white people setting up their churches and rescuing black boys from their evil black families, because that is bullshit. Throughout history, white people have fucked shit up with wild abandon, whether it be storming across the frontier and murdering Natives or elbowing their way into Africa and raping/pillaging tribes into obscurity or putting sexual/religious/racial minorities behind electric fences in the name of fascism. And to this day white people are still telling themselves that they have a crusade to carry out: that they're somehow pro-freedom if they have a black friend or if they like reading about Egypt. This worldwide culture of white supremacy was going on when the first white person set foot in Africa, and it was going on a couple of weeks ago at the VMAs. And what is this book saying about it all? Nothing. It's saying that white = clean, and black = dirty. If that is not racism, then I do not know what is.I don't know why students are expected to like all the books they're forced to read at school. Why they're expected to love something just because it's a "classic". Classics are books just like any other, and more often than not, they're mired in racism, sexism, heterosexism, and every other -ism you can think of. I hate most of them.And get this: for my final exam, my teacher expected me to write an essay on how amazing this book was. I did not. I wrote an essay on how embarrassingly below-par the authorship was, and how damaging it was to black people, to black women, and to black culture in general.I got a hell of a mark for it.


This had been on the top of my Amazon recommendations list for well over a year, so I finally succumbed (succambe?) and ordered it. I can imagine why it was recommended - I wish I liked it more than I did. Of the two related stories, I liked the second - the account of the changes brought by the outside world - better. Though I can see how others might find the first story equally powerful, it reminded me too much of Hemingway, both because of its exploration of "what it means to be a man" and the writing style. I couldn't work up enough sympathy for the main character to see him as a tragic figure. If he appeared in a more familiar context, I'd have no hesitation in pronouncing him a forgettable jerk; to view him differently because of the "foreign setting" doesn't really seem warranted. Taking it out on your wives and kids just because you have unresolved father issues is being a jerk in any culture. So his behavior in the first story didn't earn him any sympathy. Developments in the second story, where he could be viewed as a victim of external circumstances beyond his control, made it easier to feel for him.A point in the book's favor is that I did read it in one sitting.Your enjoyment of this book is likely to be directly proportional to your enjoyment of Hemingway.


I have been meaning to get around to this book for years. It did not disappoint. Things Fall Apart is the story of an African man named Okonkwo. He is an important man in his tribe and lives the way he understands a man's life is meant to be lived. To compensate for the weaknesses of his father his main purpose is to demonstrate strength. In order to achieve a greater degree of success he figures he must be more ambitious, aggressive, and domineering. And this is what he pulls off. So long as his place is firmly established in a world that is familiar to him, one in which he understands the rules and what it takes to excel, all is well. But after Christian missionaries arrive in the village we learn that this is not the story of a man, but rather, the chronicle of a way of life that is destined to fall. Okonkwo's gods fail to measure up against the Christian God mainly because ancient ways are always overwhelmed by the march of modernity. The gun is mightier than the machete, science outmatches superstition, and what on the surface appears to be a more compassionate way of life triumphs over barbarism because biblical cruelty is more cleverly disguised. A fascinating novel indeed.

Clif Hostetler

This is a novel about the clash of Nigerian traditional culture with British colonial power at the turn of the 20th century. The author is Nigerian and wrote the book about what would have been the experiences of his grandfather's generation. This book does much to do away with the perception of African traditional societies as being primitive, simple and backward. The first part of the book is filled with numerous short stories that show how Nigerian society functioned prior to the arrival of the Europeans. It elaborated on their religion, government, system of money, art and judicial system. However, it is an honest description of traditional society that includes its less desirable features such as infanticide, mistreatment of women, ritual killings, and patriarchal traditions that honored and praised male violence. When this traditional culture begins to be changed by colonial intrusions, some native Nigerians were open to change and others indifferent. The main character was a rigid fundamentalist and refused to change.The second and third parts of the books tells the story of British colonial powers gradually replacing traditional Nigerian governance with their own system of laws. Some of the British were flexible and sensitive in dealing with traditional culture. Others were rigid in their dealings with Nigerians and showed no respect for traditional ways. I appreciate that fact that the book portrayed the two sides as neither all good or all bad. It provides another example of the fact that change happens, and the story of life is dealing with it.When it comes to colonial power versus traditional African culture, we all know who came out on top at least in the short term. Of course Nigeria eventually won its independence in 1960. But it could be argued that some of instability and internal violence that country has experienced since then may have been caused by the loss of traditional social structures.

Robert Beveridge

This is another classic example of "what in the world are you thinking assigning this to high school kids?" It's a pretty durned fine book, and there is much therein upon which to reflect, but I'm guessing the adolescent and recently-postadolescent crowd is going to feel a book like this is being rammed down their throats. And they're probably right.Thankfully, I'm a year or so too old to have been assigned this in school, and I picked up a copy vaguely remembering classmates below me had had to read it. Perhaps my lack of memory about much of my high school and college days is a good thing, because I went into this novel without any preconceptions. I also went into it having read a few books from Heinemann's African Writers Series over the past few months, so I have something of a grasp on what African novelists were doing in the late fifties. (Not a bad idea, actually, since the "storytelling" nature of such tales can be jarring to someone who's used to modern American lit-- for example, your typical high school student.) All this being the case, Things Fall Apart, considered by many western critics to be the premier work of African literature of this century, may be quite deserving of its laurels.Okonkwo is a tribal elder in Umuofia, a large village in southern Nigeria. He's the very essence of a self-made man, having inherited nothing from his father. Of course, events can't just go on day to day as we want them to, and a series of stumbling blocks face Okonkwo after he is given the care of a teenager the village has taken as a spoil of war.The book is compared to classical Greek tragedy, and there are certainly elements of it here. However (remembering recent reading in Abel), to cast this as a true Greek tragedy would force a reading that says the tribal gods sent Christian missionaries to Umuofia in order to punish Okonkwo for various transgressions. I'm about halfway to accepting that this is what Achebe was after, actually. Otherwise, one is forced to read this in kind of the same way as the old joke whose punchine is "Job, something about you just sporks me off."One way or the other, the writing is fluid, easy, and captivating, and the storytelling style is one I've always been drawn to (as opposed to the missionaries-- one white person, at the very end of the book, thinks to himself that one of the most annoying things about the tribe is their "superfluity"). I liked this one, surely more than my schoolmates who were assigned it. Those of you who were, and hated it, might want to try cleansing your palates with something by, say, Cyprian Ekwensi, or a different, lesser-known book by Achebe (A Man of the People would be a good start). Then tackle this one again. It's worth it.


I really love this book. It never gets old, even though I've taught it a few times now. The teens, however, are so resistant to it at first because the characters' names are difficult to pronounce, and they find it challenging to keep track of Okonkwo's many wives and children. The other day, though, I was reading an excerpt from it aloud in class, and I caught a teen boy loving it. This particular teen, who is not such a fan of reading, made a comment under his breath about how he liked the story so far and appreciated the writing. Jumping with joy inside, I asked him to tell us more. Then, he got all defensive and embarrassed and said, "It's not like I'm going to go home and finish it all tonight!!!" Classic teen, ashamed of being moved by literature.


This has been on my list for a while. I enjoyed the economy of style and Achebe's choice of a decidedly unlikable protagonist, which was brave and made for a powerful rendering of a fascinating period of history. Chinua made a clever decision not to fall prey to the temptation to embrace a phony dichotomy - Africa good - Europe bad. He tells the story of the missionary and colonial movement in Nigeria in an unflinchingly dispassionate way. Okonkwo is an anti-hero, proud, cruel, misanthrope, and I found myself hoping for his demise. In the same way, tribal life in Umuofia is certainly not utopian. It doesn't take a feminist reading to criticize the culture for the dispicable way women and children are treated, it's pretty obvious - newborn twins thrown away like pieces of garbage, women bought and sold as property, teenage boys slaughtered for the sins of their fathers. All this leads the reader to ask whether colonial law isn't such a bad thing after... Of course, it isn't as simple as that because one is left with a sense of sadness and dismay for the decay of tribal culture, and a bad taste in the mouth for the arrogance and superioity of the colonial mind. I think this is why this book is considered a masterpiece.


I held the door for the man at college, but I never read his classic novel until I was a teacher. I remember finishing this book and just sobbing on my bed for 15 minutes; if you avoided or hated this in highschool, give it another chance, because it deserves every bit of its reputation.2-1-8As of today, I'm teaching it to my Sophomore classes. I think I found it even more tragic the second time through, with Achebe's simple, detached style juxtaposed against the collapse of one mans life and the end of an entire civilization. My students pulled a lot regarding themes , especially towards the end.

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