Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a classic novel that tells the story of Okonkwo, a leader in an Igbocommunity, and his struggles with the intrusion of white missionaries and colonial government into his tribal society.
The novel follows Okonkwo’s journey from the events leading up to his banishment from the community, through his seven years of exile, to his eventual return. It explores themes of colonization, family, religion, tradition, language, masculinity, and fate and free will.
The novel highlights two significant generational divides. The first divide separates Okonkwo from his father, Unoka, who is not a warrior and prefers to drink and play music with friends.
This is shameful to Okonkwo, who is hypermasculine and dismisses his father as a coward. The second divide is between the traditional methods of survival and the new ways of life brought about by colonization.
Achebe also emphasizes the importance of language and storytelling in Igbo culture, and how quickly the abandonment of the Igbo language for English could lead to the eradication of these traditions.
Things Fall Apart is an important novel that critiques and emends the portrait of Africa that was painted by so many writers of the colonial period. It encourages readers to realize that they may misperceive their native culture and to appreciate the complexity of African languages and cultures.
What I Liked
I loved how engaging and layered this novel was. It’s well-written and accessible even to readers not super-familiar with Africa.
What I Did Not Like
Not a whole lot – it’s a classic novel for good reason.