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Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe
Reading Schedule
Complete the following reading assignments before
coming to class on the day with which they are listed.
Class time will be given to read and work on assignments,
but students are responsible for staying on schedule.
Announced and unannounced quizzes may cover any
material up to the most recent reading assignment; makeup
quizzes may be for any recent reading assignments at the
time of the makeup.
*Unless otherwise noted, HW assignments for the
readings will consist of adding up to 7 points from your
reader response bookmarks.

A Day


B Day


In-Class Review:

We begin reading
together; we will read
and discuss Chapters 1
& 2 in class



1/11-1/13 IOCD!!!!
Semester Break









Chapters 3-6
Chapters 7-10
Chapters 11-13
Part One Finished (113)
I will expect three
reader categories
Mid-Term (Paper 1)
Chapters 14-19 (All
of Part Two)
Chapters 20-25 (All
of Part Three)
Begin Their Eyes Were
Watching God

Please note, this may require conducting a bit of contextual research to

familiarize yourself with the cultural references; this is imperative in appreciating
the gravity of a novel like this.

The whole idea of a stereotype is to

simplify. Instead of going through the
problem of all this great diversity - that
it's this or maybe that - you have just
one large statement; it is this.
Chinua Achebe

General introduction to the novel:

Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, is the seminal African novel
in English. Although there were earlier examples, notably by
Achebe's fellow Nigerian, Amos Tutuola, none has been so
influential, not only on African literature, but on literature around
the world. Its most striking feature is to create a complex and
sympathetic portrait of a traditional village culture in Africa.
Achebe is trying not only to inform the outside world about Ibo
cultural traditions, but to remind his own people of their past and
to assert that it had contained much of value. All too many
Africans in his time were ready to accept the European judgment
that Africa had no history or culture worth considering.
He also fiercely resents the stereotype of Africa as an
undifferentiated "primitive" land, the "heart of darkness," as
Conrad calls it. Throughout the novel he shows how African
cultures vary among themselves and how they change over time.
Look for instances of these variations as you read.
As a young boy the "African literature" he was taught consisted
entirely of works by Europeans about Africa, such as Conrad's
Heart of Darkness and Joyce Cary's Mister Johnson, which
portrays a comic African who slavishly adores his white colonist
boss, to the point of gladly being shot to death by him. Achebe
has said that it was his indignation at this latter novel that inspired
the writing of Things Fall Apart. Try to see in what ways his
novel answers Cary's. He also wrote a famous attack on the
racism of Heart of Darkness which continues to be the subject of
heated debate.
The language of the novel is simple but dignified. When the
characters speak, they use an elevated diction which is meant to
convey the sense of Ibo speech. This choice of language was a
brilliant and innovative stroke, given that most earlier writers had
relegated African characters to pidgin or inarticulate gibberish.
One has the sense of listening to another tongue, one with a rich
and valuable tradition.
Source: Washington State University
A little more historical context:
In 1958 much of Africa was still under the colonialist yoke,
although a few countries (most notably Ghana) had already
achieved independence. Set in a time of great change for Africans,
Achebe's novels illuminate two painful features of modern
African life: the humiliations visited on Africans by colonialism,
and the corruption and inefficiency of what replaced colonial rule.
Things Fall Apart in particular focuses on the early experience of
colonialism as it occurred in Nigeria in the late 1800's, from the
first days of contact with the British to widespread British
administration. Achebe is interested in showing Ibo society in the
period of transition when rooted, traditional values are put in
conflict with an alien and more powerful culture that will tear
them apart. Achebe paints a vivid picture of Ibo society both
before and after the arrival of white men, and avoids the
temptation to idealize either culture. In this context, he believes
that the novelist must have a social commitment: "The writer
cannot be excused from the task of re-education and regeneration
that must be done.I for one would not wish to be excused. I would
be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the
past) did no more than just teach my readers [Africans] that their
past-with all its imperfections-was not one long night of savagery
from which the Europeans acting on God's behalf delivered