Chinua Achebe
1930 -
Why study this African novel in a Literature of Western Civ class?
Things Fall Apart – Historical Setting
District Commissioner’s future
book (final line of TFA):
The Pacification of the
Primitive Tribes of the Lower
Egwugwu near Awka, 1930s
Were the Igbo “primitive”??
• Ozo titles at least 1000 years old
• Democratic
– No tribal chiefs, only elders
• Harmonic community
Literary Setting – The Literature of Empire
European literature of Africa
• Grew up over 400 years
• Fantastical, mythical
Why would literature take up this portrayal?
1560s – European slave trade began
1700s – British trade with Africa entirely slaves
3 Challenges and Achievements in
Things Fall Apart
1. Using English to write an oral culture
Use of Igbo words
Use of proverbs
P. 2480 – proverb of the Mother Kite
P. 2506 – proverb of the toad jumping in daylight
3 Challenges and Achievements in
Things Fall Apart (cont’d)
2. Responding to the imperialist stereotypes of
– Achebe countering the imperialist view of the
European “parent” to the African “child”
(From Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” – 1899)
Take up the White Man's burden-The savage wars of peace-Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
3 Challenges and Achievements in
Things Fall Apart (cont’d)
3. Getting a Western reader to identify
internally with the Igbo
– Traditional life not romanticized
– religion - see p. 2496 – Akunna and Mr. Brown
Conrad and Achebe
How well does Achebe portray European characters?
Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart …
A study of imperialists
A study of Africans
Achebe: “The psychological destruction of a few individuals has little prominence
beside the material exploitation and cultural devastation of entire peoples.”
Are Conrad and Achebe ultimately friends or enemies?
Some Questions
• Is Okonkwo justified in killing the colonial
– Should we view Okonkwo as a tragic hero?
• Does this text teach us better how to live,
especially in a global society?
• Do things really “fall apart” in this novel?