Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Achebe, about African Literature
“The reason African Literature
came into existence because
these things that were supposed
to represent [Africans] were
inaccurate. There was a
vacuum, a gap to be filled”
~Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe
brief biography
• Born 1930 in a Christian family in Ogidi
in Eastern Nigeria
• Went to college, taught at university
• Received the Nigerian National merit
Award in 1987
• By 1995 over 8 million copies of Things
Fall Apart were sold
Igbo Society
Social & Political Structures
• Lack of centralized political structures
• Lived in autonomous villages & towns, ruled
by their elders
• Organized in patrilineages
• Democracy was obtained through a council of
elders, age groups, councils of chiefs,
women’s associations, and secret societies
Igbo Society
Marriage Customs
• Marriages were discussed in depth as they
brought families & entire villages together
• Most husbands practiced polygamy
• Igbo women lived in separate houses, cooked
for themselves, and raised their own children
• Unhappy women could leave a marriage
Igbo Society
Igbo Religion (polytheistic)
• Chukwu (the supreme being) is everywhere at
the same time--therefore there are no shrines
or altars for worship
• Ekwensu=trickster god who caused problems
• The ikenga = a wooden carving that symbolizes
a man’s strength & success--a priest invokes a
spirit into it & the men consult it for advice
• Chi = a person’s personal god…follows you
throughout life and can be either malevolent or
benevolent…but chi does not control destiny
Things Fall Apart
brief background
• Story is set between 1860 & 1890--written
between 1952 & 1958; a time when Nigeria
was finally ending colonial rule
• Central theme=what happens to the values
that define Okonkwo’s cultural community &
define his sense of moral order when
everything collapses in the face of European
• Colonial rule destabilizes traditional values &
• There is a crisis of authority & power, which
leads to a crisis of culture