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Chinua Achebe


Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born on November 16, 1930, in Ogidi, a large village in Nigeria. Although he was the child o a !rotestant missionar" and received his earl" education in #nglish, his u$bringing was multicultural, as the inhabitants o Ogidi still lived according to man" as$ects o traditional %gbo & ormerl" written as %bo' culture. Achebe attended the (overnment College in )muahia rom 19** to 19*+. ,e graduated rom )niversit" College, %badan, in 19-3. .hile he was in college, Achebe studied histor" and theolog". ,e also develo$ed his interest in indigenous Nigerian cultures, and he re/ected his Christian name, Albert, or his indigenous one, Chinua. %n the 19-0s, Achebe was one o the ounders o a Nigerian literar" movement that drew u$on the traditional oral culture o its indigenous $eo$les. %n 19-9, he $ublished Things Fall Apart as a res$onse to novels, such as 0ose$h Conrad1sHeart of Darkness, that treat A rica as a $rimordial and cultureless oil or #uro$e. 2ired o reading white men1s accounts o how $rimitive, sociall" bac3ward, and, most im$ortant, language4less native A ricans were, Achebe sought to conve" a uller understanding o one A rican culture and, in so doing, give voice to an underre$resented and ex$loited colonial sub/ect. Things Fall Apart is set in the 1590s and $ortra"s the clash between Nigeria1s white colonial government and the traditional culture o the indigenous %gbo $eo$le. Achebe1s novel shatters the stereot"$ical #uro$ean $ortraits o native A ricans. ,e is care ul to $ortra" the com$lex, advanced social institutions and artistic traditions o %gbo culture $rior to its contact with #uro$eans. 6et he is /ust as care ul not to stereot"$e the #uro$eans7 he o ers var"ing de$ictions o the white man, such as the mostl" benevolent 8r. 9rown, the :ealous ;everend <mith, and the ruthlessl" calculating =istrict Commissioner. Achebe1s education in #nglish and ex$osure to #uro$ean customs have allowed him to ca$ture both the #uro$ean and the A rican $ers$ectives on colonial ex$ansion, religion, race, and culture. ,is decision to write Things Fall Apart in #nglish is an im$ortant one. Achebe wanted this novel to res$ond to earlier colonial accounts o A rica7 his choice o language was thus $olitical. )nli3e some later A rican authors who chose to revitali:e native languages as a orm o resistance to colonial culture, Achebe wanted to achieve cultural

revitali:ation within and through #nglish. Nevertheless, he manages to ca$ture the rh"thm o the %gbo language and he integrates %gbo vocabular" into the narrative. Achebe has become renowned throughout the world as a ather o modern A rican literature, essa"ist, and $ro essor o #nglish literature at 9ard College in New 6or3. 9ut Achebe1s achievements are most concretel" re lected b" his $rominence in Nigeria1s academic culture and in its literar" and $olitical institutions. ,e wor3ed or the Nigerian 9roadcasting Com$an" or over a decade and later became an #nglish $ro essor at the )niversit" o Nigeria. ,e has also been >uite in luential in the $ublication o new Nigerian writers. %n 196+, he co4 ounded a $ublishing com$an" with a Nigerian $oet named Christo$her O3igbo and in 19+1, he began editing Okike, a res$ected /ournal o Nigerian writing. %n 195*, he ounded Uwa ndi Igbo, a bilingual maga:ine containing a great deal o in ormation about %gbo culture. ,e has been active in Nigerian $olitics since the 1960s, and man" o his novels address the $ost4colonial social and $olitical $roblems that Nigeria still aces.

!lot Overview

O3on3wo is a wealth" and res$ected warrior o the )muo ia clan, a lower Nigerian tribe that is $art o a consortium o nine connected villages. ,e is haunted b" the actions o )no3a, his cowardl" and s$endthri t ather, who died in disre$ute, leaving man" village debts unsettled. %n res$onse, O3on3wo became a clansman, warrior, armer, and amil" $rovider extraordinaire. ,e has a twelve4"ear4old son named Nwo"e whom he inds la:"7 O3on3wo worries that Nwo"e will end u$ a ailure li3e )no3a. %n a settlement with a neighboring tribe, )muo ia wins a virgin and a i teen4"ear4old bo". O3on3wo ta3es charge o the bo", %3eme una, and inds an ideal son in him. Nwo"e li3ewise orms a strong attachment to the newcomer. =es$ite his ondness or %3eme una and des$ite the act that the bo" begins to call him ? ather,@ O3on3wo does not let himsel show an" a ection or him. =uring the .ee3 o !eace, O3on3wo accuses his "oungest wi e, O/iugo, o negligence. ,e severel" beats her, brea3ing the $eace o the sacred wee3. ,e ma3es some sacri ices to show his re$entance, but he has shoc3ed his communit" irre$arabl". %3eme una sta"s with O3on3wo1s amil" or three "ears. Nwo"e loo3s u$ to him as an older brother and, much to O3on3wo1s $leasure, develo$s a more masculine attitude. One da", the locusts come to )muo iaAthe" will

come ever" "ear or seven "ears be ore disa$$earing or another generation. 2he village excitedl" collects them because the" are good to eat when coo3ed. Ogbue i #:eudu, a res$ected village elder, in orms O3on3wo in $rivate that the Oracle has said that %3eme una must be 3illed. ,e tells O3on3wo that because %3eme una calls him ? ather,@ O3on3wo should not ta3e $art in the bo"1s death. O3on3wo lies to %3eme una, telling him that the" must return him to his home village. Nwo"e bursts into tears. As he wal3s with the men o )muo ia, %3eme una thin3s about seeing his mother. A ter several hours o wal3ing, some o O3on3wo1s clansmen attac3 the bo" with machetes. %3eme una runs to O3on3wo or hel$. 9ut O3on3wo, who doesn1t wish to loo3 wea3 in ront o his ellow tribesmen, cuts the bo" down des$ite the Oracle1s admonishment. .hen O3on3wo returns home, Nwo"e deduces that his riend is dead. O3on3wo sin3s into a de$ression, neither able to slee$ nor eat. ,e visits his riend Obieri3a and begins to eel revived a bit. O3on3wo1s daughter #:inma alls ill, but she recovers a ter O3on3wo gathers leaves or her medicine. 2he death o Ogbue i #:eudu is announced to the surrounding villages b" means o the ekwe, a musical instrument. O3on3wo eels guilt" because the last time #:eudu visited him was to warn him against ta3ing $art in %3eme una1s death. At Ogbue i #:eudu1s large and elaborate uneral, the men beat drums and ire their guns. 2raged" com$ounds u$on itsel when O3on3wo1s gun ex$lodes and 3ills Ogbue i #:eudu1s sixteen4"ear4old son. 9ecause 3illing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess, O3on3wo must ta3e his amil" into exile or seven "ears in order to atone. ,e gathers his most valuable belongings and ta3es his amil" to his mother1s natal village, 8banta. 2he men rom Ogbue i #:eudu1s >uarter burn O3on3wo1s buildings and 3ill his animals to cleanse the village o his sin. O3on3wo1s 3insmen, es$eciall" his uncle, )chendu, receive him warml". 2he" hel$ him build a new com$ound o huts and lend him "am seeds to start a arm. Although he is bitterl" disa$$ointed at his mis ortune, O3on3wo reconciles himsel to li e in his motherland. =uring the second "ear o O3on3wo1s exile, Obieri3a brings several bags o cowries &shells used as currenc"' that he has made b" selling O3on3wo1s "ams. Obieri3a $lans to continue to do so until O3on3wo returns to the village. Obieri3a also brings the bad news that Abame, another village, has been destro"ed b" the white man.

<oon a terward, six missionaries travel to 8banta. 2hrough an inter$reter named 8r. Biaga, the missionaries1 leader, 8r. 9rown, s$ea3s to the villagers. ,e tells them that their gods are alse and that worshi$$ing more than one (od is idolatrous. 9ut the villagers do not understand how the ,ol" 2rinit" can be acce$ted as one (od. Although his aim is to convert the residents o )muo ia to Christianit", 8r. 9rown does not allow his ollowers to antagoni:e the clan. 8r. 9rown grows ill and is soon re$laced b" ;everend 0ames <mith, an intolerant and strict man. 2he more :ealous converts are relieved to be ree o 8r. 9rown1s $olic" o restraint. One such convert, #noch, dares to unmas3 an egwugwu during the annual ceremon" to honor the earth deit", an act e>uivalent to 3illing an ancestral s$irit. 2he next da", the egwugwu burn #noch1s com$ound and ;everend <mith1s church to the ground. 2he =istrict Commissioner is u$set b" the burning o the church and re>uests that the leaders o )muo ia meet with him. Once the" are gathered, however, the leaders are handcu ed and thrown in /ail, where the" su er insults and $h"sical abuse. A ter the $risoners are released, the clansmen hold a meeting, during which ive court messengers a$$roach and order the clansmen to desist. #x$ecting his ellow clan members to /oin him in u$rising, O3on3wo 3ills their leader with his machete. .hen the crowd allows the other messengers to esca$e, O3on3wo reali:es that his clan is not willing to go to war. .hen the =istrict Commissioner arrives at O3on3wo1s com$ound, he inds that O3on3wo has hanged himsel . Obieri3a and his riends lead the commissioner to the bod". Obieri3a ex$lains that suicide is a grave sin7 thus, according to custom, none o O3on3wo1s clansmen ma" touch his bod". 2he commissioner, who is writing a boo3 about A rica, believes that the stor" o O3on3wo1s rebellion and death will ma3e or an interesting $aragra$h or two. ,e has alread" chosen the boo31s titleC The Pacification of the Primiti e Tribes of the !ower "iger#

Character Dist

O3on3wo, the son o the e eminate and la:" )no3a, strives to ma3e his wa" in a world that seems to value manliness. %n so doing, he re/ects ever"thing or which he believes his ather stood. )no3a was idle, $oor, $ro ligate, cowardl", gentle, and interested in music and conversation. O3on3wo consciousl" ado$ts o$$osite ideals and becomes $roductive, wealth", thri t", brave, violent, and adamantl" o$$osed to music and an"thing else that he $erceives to be ?so t,@ such as conversation and emotion. ,e is stoic to a ault. O3on3wo achieves great social and inancial success b" embracing these ideals. ,e marries three women and athers several children. Nevertheless, /ust as his ather was at odds with the values o the communit" around him, so too does O3on3wo ind himsel unable to ada$t to changing times as the white man comes to live among the )muo ians. As it becomes evident that com$liance rather than violence constitutes the wisest $rinci$le or survival, O3on3wo reali:es that he has become a relic, no longer able to unction within his changing societ". O3on3wo is a tragic hero in the classical senseC although he is a su$erior character, his tragic lawAthe e>uation o manliness with rashness, anger, and violenceAbrings about his own destruction. O3on3wo is gru , at times, and usuall" unable to ex$ress his eelings &the narrator re>uentl" uses the word ?inwardl"@ in re erence to O3on3wo1s emotions'. 9ut his emotions are indeed >uite com$lex, as his ?manl"@ values con lict with his ?unmanl"@ ones, such as ondness or %3eme una and #:inma. 2he narrator $rivileges us with in ormation that O3on3wo1s ellow clan members do not haveAthat O3on3wo surre$titiousl" ollows #3we i into the orest in $ursuit o #:inma, or exam$leAand thus allows us to see the tender, worried ather beneath the seemingl" indi erent exterior. himsel and his amil".

Nwo"e, O3on3wo1s oldest son, struggles in the shadow o his $ower ul, success ul, and demanding ather. ,is interests are di erent rom O3on3wo1s and resemble more closel" those o )no3a, his grand ather. ,e undergoes man" beatings, at a loss or how to $lease his ather, until the arrival o %3eme una, who becomes li3e an older brother and teaches him a gentler orm o success ul masculinit". As a result, O3on3wo bac3s o , and Nwo"e even starts to win his grudging a$$roval. Nwo"e remains con licted, howeverC though he ma3es a show o scorning eminine things in order to $lease his ather, he misses his mother1s stories. .ith the unconscionable murder o %3eme una, however, Nwo"e retreats into himsel and inds himsel orever changed. ,is reluctance to acce$t O3on3wo1s masculine values turns into $ure embitterment toward him and his wa"s. .hen missionaries come to 8banta, Nwo"e1s ho$e and aith are reawa3ened, and he

eventuall" /oins orces with them. Although O3on3wo curses his lot or having borne so ?e eminate@ a son and disowns Nwo"e, Nwo"e a$$ears to have ound $eace at last in leaving the o$$ressive atmos$here o his ather1s t"rann".

#:inma, O3on3wo1s avorite daughter and the onl" child o #3we i, is bold in the wa" that she a$$roachesA and even sometimes contradictsAher ather. O3on3wo remar3s to himsel multi$le times that he wishes she had been born a bo", since he considers her to have such a masculine s$irit. #:inma alone seems to win O3on3wo1s ull attention, a ection, and, ironicall", res$ect. <he and he are 3indred s$irits, which boosts her con idence and $recociousness. <he grows into a beauti ul "oung woman who sensibl" agrees to $ut o marriage until her amil" returns rom exile so as to hel$ her ather leverage his socio$olitical $ower most e ectivel". %n doing so, she shows an a$$roach similar to that o O3on3woC she $uts strateg" ahead o emotion.

Ikemefuna 4 A bo" given to O3on3wo b" a neighboring village. %3eme una lives in the hut o O3on3wo1s irst wi e and >uic3l" becomes $o$ular with O3on3wo1s children. ,e develo$s an es$eciall" close relationshi$ with Nwo"e, O3on3wo1s oldest son, who loo3s u$ to him. O3on3wo too becomes ver" ond o %3eme una, who calls him ? ather@ and is a $er ect clansman, but O3on3wo does not demonstrate his a ection because he ears that doing so would ma3e him loo3 wea3.

Mr. Brown
8r. 9rown re$resents Achebe1s attem$t to cra t a well4rounded $ortrait o the colonial $resence b" tem$ering bad $ersonalities with good ones. 8r. 9rown1s successor, ;everend <mith, is :ealous, venge ul, small4minded, and mani$ulative7 he thus stands in contrast to 8r. 9rown, who, on the other hand, is benevolent i not alwa"s bene icent. 8r. 9rown succeeds in winning a large number o converts because he listens to the villagers1 stories, belie s, and o$inions. ,e also acce$ts the converts unconditionall". ,is conversation with A3unna re$resents this s"m$athetic stance. 2he derisive comments that ;everend <mith ma3es about 8r. 9rown a ter the latter1s de$arture illustrate the colonial intolerance or an" 3ind o s"m$ath" or, and genuine interest in, the native culture. 2he surname 9rown hints at his abilit" to navigate success ull" the clear4cut racial division between the coloni:ers and the coloni:ed.

Reverend James Smith 4 2he missionar" who re$laces 8r. 9rown. )nli3e 8r. 9rown, ;everend <mith is uncom$romising and strict. ,e demands that his converts re/ect all o their indigenous belie s, and he shows no res$ect or indigenous customs or culture. ,e is the stereot"$ical white colonialist, and his behavior e$itomi:es

the $roblems o colonialism. ,e intentionall" $rovo3es his congregation, inciting it to anger and even indirectl", through #noch, encouraging some airl" serious transgressions. Uchendu 4 2he "ounger brother o O3on3wo1s mother. )chendu receives O3on3wo and his amil" warml" when the" travel to 8banta, and he advises O3on3wo to be grate ul or the com ort that his motherland o ers him lest he anger the deadAes$eciall" his mother, who is buried there. )chendu himsel has su eredAall but one o his six wives are dead and he has buried twent"4two children. ,e is a $eace ul, com$romising man and unctions as a oil &a character whose emotions or actions highlight, b" means o contrast, the emotions or actions o another character' to O3on3wo, who acts im$etuousl" and without thin3ing. The istrict !"mmissi"ner 4 An authorit" igure in the white colonial government in Nigeria. 2he

$rotot"$ical racist colonialist, the =istrict Commissioner thin3s that he understands ever"thing about native A rican customs and cultures and he has no res$ect or them. ,e $lans to wor3 his ex$eriences into an ethnogra$hic stud" on local A rican tribes, the idea o which embodies his dehumani:ing and reductive attitude toward race relations. Un"ka 4 O3on3wo1s ather, o whom O3on3wo has been ashamed since childhood. 9" the standards o the clan, )no3a was a coward and a s$endthri t. ,e never too3 a title in his li e, he borrowed mone" rom his clansmen, and he rarel" re$aid his debts. ,e never became a warrior because he eared the sight o blood. 8oreover, he died o an abominable illness. On the $ositive side, )no3a a$$ears to have been a talented musician and gentle, i idle. ,e ma" well have been a dreamer, ill4suited to the chauvinistic culture into which he was born. 2he novel o$ens ten "ears a ter his death. #$ierika 4 O3on3wo1s close riend, whose daughter1s wedding $rovides cause or estivit" earl" in the novel. Obieri3a loo3s out or his riend, selling O3on3wo1s "ams to ensure that O3on3wo won1t su er inancial ruin while in exile and com orting O3on3wo when he is de$ressed. Di3e Nwo"e, Obieri3a >uestions some o the tribe1s traditional strictures. %k&efi 4 O3on3wo1s second wi e, once the village beaut". #3we i ran awa" rom her irst husband to live with O3on3wo. #:inma is her onl" surviving child, her other nine having died in in anc", and #3we i constantl" ears that she will lose #:inma as well. #3we i is good riends with Chielo, the $riestess o the goddess Agbala. %n"ch 4 A anatical convert to the Christian church in )muo ia. #noch1s disres$ect ul act o ri$$ing the mas3 o an egwugwu during an annual ceremon" to honor the earth deit" leads to the climactic clash between the indigenous and colonial /ustice s"stems. .hile 8r. 9rown, earl" on, 3ee$s #noch in chec3 in the interest o communit" harmon", ;everend <mith a$$roves o his :ealotr".

#'$uefi %(eudu 4 2he oldest man in the village and one o the most im$ortant clan elders and leaders. Ogbue i #:eudu was a great warrior in his "outh and now delivers messages rom the Oracle. !hie)" 4 A $riestess in )muo ia who is dedicated to the Oracle o the goddess Agbala. Chielo is a widow with two children. <he is good riends with #3we i and is ond o #:inma, whom she calls ?m" daughter.@ At one $oint, she carries #:inma on her bac3 or miles in order to hel$ $uri " her and a$$ease the gods. Akunna 4 A clan leader o )muo ia. A3unna and 8r. 9rown discuss their religious belie s $eace ull", and A3unna1s in luence on the missionar" advances 8r. 9rown1s strateg" or converting the largest number o clansmen b" wor3ing with, rather than against, their belie s"stem. %n so doing, however, A3unna ormulates an articulate and rational de ense o his religious s"stem and draws some stri3ing $arallels between his st"le o worshi$ and that o the Christian missionaries. N&aki$ie 4 A wealth" clansmen who ta3es a chance on O3on3wo b" lending him 500 seed "amsAtwice the number or which O3on3wo as3s. Nwa3ibie thereb" hel$s O3on3wo build u$ the beginnings o his $ersonal wealth, status, and inde$endence. *r+ ,ia'a 4 2he native4turned4Christian missionar" who arrives in 8banta and converts Nwo"e and man" others. #ka'$ue U-an&a 4 A amous medicine man whom O3on3wo summons or hel$ in dealing with #:inma1s health $roblems. *aduka 4 Obieri3a1s son. 8adu3a wins a wrestling contest in his mid4teens. O3on3wo wishes he had $romising, manl" sons li3e 8adu3a. #$ia'e)i 4 2he daughter o O3on3wo1s irst wi e. Although Obiageli is close to #:inma in age, #:inma has a great deal o in luence over her. #.iu'" 4 O3on3wo1s third and "oungest wi e, and the mother o N3echi. O3on3wo beats O/iugo during the .ee3 o !eace.

2hemes, 8oti s E <"mbols

Themes are the fundamental and often uni ersal ideas e$plored in a literar% work#

2he <truggle 9etween Change and 2radition

As a stor" about a culture on the verge o change, Things Fall Apart deals with how the $ros$ect and realit" o change a ect various characters. 2he tension about whether change should be $rivileged over tradition o ten involves >uestions o $ersonal status. O3on3wo, or exam$le, resists the new $olitical and religious orders because he eels that the" are not manl" and that he himsel will not be manl" i he consents to /oin or even tolerate them. 2o some extent, O3on3wo1s resistance o cultural change is also due to his ear o losing societal status. ,is sense o sel 4worth is de$endent u$on the traditional standards b" which societ" /udges him. 2his s"stem o evaluating the sel ins$ires man" o the clan1s outcasts to embrace Christianit". Dong scorned, these outcasts ind in the Christian value s"stem a re uge rom the %gbo cultural values that $lace them below ever"one else. %n their new communit", these converts en/o" a more elevated status. 2he villagers in general are caught between resisting and embracing change and the" ace the dilemma o tr"ing to determine how best to ada$t to the realit" o change. 8an" o the villagers are excited about the new o$$ortunities and techni>ues that the missionaries bring. 2his #uro$ean in luence, however, threatens to extinguish the need or the master" o traditional methods o arming, harvesting, building, and coo3ing. 2hese traditional methods, once crucial or survival, are now, to var"ing degrees, dis$ensable. 2hroughout the novel, Achebe shows how de$endent such traditions are u$on stor"telling and language and thus how >uic3l" the abandonment o the %gbo language or #nglish could lead to the eradication o these traditions.

Far"ing %nter$retations o 8asculinit"

O3on3wo1s relationshi$ with his late ather sha$es much o his violent and ambitious demeanor. ,e wants to rise above his ather1s legac" o s$endthri t, indolent behavior, which he views as wea3 and there ore e eminate. 2his association is inherent in the clan1s languageAthe narrator mentions that the word or a man who has not ta3en an" o the ex$ensive, $restige4indicating titles is agbala, which also means ?woman.@ 9ut, or the most $art, O3on3wo1s idea o manliness is not the clan1s. ,e associates masculinit" with aggression and eels that anger is the onl" emotion that he should dis$la". Gor this reason, he re>uentl" beats his wives, even threatening to 3ill them rom time to time. .e are told that he does not thin3 about things, and we see him act rashl" and im$etuousl". 6et others who are in no wa" e eminate do not behave in this wa". Obieri3a, unli3e O3on3wo, ?was a man who thought about things.@ .hereas Obieri3a re uses to accom$an" the men on the tri$ to 3ill %3eme una, O3on3wo not onl" volunteers to /oin the $art" that will execute his surrogate son but also violentl" stabs him with his machete sim$l" because he is a raid o a$$earing wea3.

O3on3wo1s seven4"ear exile rom his village onl" rein orces his notion that men are stronger than women. .hile in exile, he lives among the 3insmen o his motherland but resents the $eriod in its entiret". 2he exile is his o$$ortunit" to get in touch with his eminine side and to ac3nowledge his maternal ancestors, but he 3ee$s reminding himsel that his maternal 3insmen are not as warli3e and ierce as he remembers the villagers o )muo ia to be. ,e aults them or their $re erence o negotiation, com$liance, and avoidance over anger and bloodshed. %n O3on3wo1s understanding, his uncle )chendu exem$li ies this $aci ist &and there ore somewhat e eminate' mode.

Danguage as a <ign o Cultural =i erence

Danguage is an im$ortant theme in Things Fall Apart on several levels. %n demonstrating the imaginative, o ten ormal language o the %gbo, Achebe em$hasi:es that A rica is not the silent or incom$rehensible continent that boo3s such as Heart of Darkness made it out to be. ;ather, b" $e$$ering the novel with %gbo words, Achebe shows that the %gbo language is too com$lex or direct translation into #nglish. <imilarl", %gbo culture cannot be understood within the ramewor3 o #uro$ean colonialist values. Achebe also $oints out that A rica has man" different languagesC the villagers o )muo ia, or exam$le, ma3e un o 8r. 9rown1s translator because his language is slightl" di erent rom their own. On a macrosco$ic level, it is extremel" signi icant that Achebe chose to write Things Fall Apart in #nglishAhe clearl" intended it to be read b" the .est at least as much, i not more, than b" his ellow Nigerians. ,is goal was to criti>ue and emend the $ortrait o A rica that was $ainted b" so man" writers o the colonial $eriod. =oing so re>uired the use o #nglish, the language o those colonial writers. 2hrough his inclusion o $roverbs, ol3tales, and songs translated rom the %gbo language, Achebe managed to ca$ture and conve" the rh"thms, structures, cadences, and beaut" o the %gbo language.

&otifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literar% de ices that can help to de elop and inform the te$t's ma(or themes#

2he conce$t o chi is discussed at various $oints throughout the novel and is im$ortant to our understanding o O3on3wo as a tragic hero. 2he chi is an individual1s $ersonal god, whose merit is determined b" the individual1s good ortune or lac3 thereo . Along the lines o this inter$retation, one can ex$lain O3on3wo1s tragic ate as the result o a $roblematic chiAa thought that occurs to O3on3wo at several $oints in the novel. Gor the clan believes, as the narrator tells us in Cha$ter 1*, a ?man could not rise be"ond the destin" o his chi#@ 9ut there is another understanding o chi that con licts with this de inition. %n Cha$ter *, the narrator

relates, according to an %gbo $roverb, that ?when a man sa"s "es his chisa"s "es also.@ According to this understanding, individuals will their own destinies. 2hus, de$ending u$on our inter$retation o chi, O3on3wo seems either more or less res$onsible or his own tragic death. O3on3wo himsel shi ts between these $olesC when things are going well or him, he $erceives himsel as master and ma3er o his own destin"7 when things go badl", however, he automaticall" disavows res$onsibilit" and as3s wh" he should be so ill4 ated.

Animal %mager"
%n their descri$tions, categori:ations, and ex$lanations o human behavior and wisdom, the %gbo o ten use animal anecdotes to naturali:e their rituals and belie s. 2he $resence o animals in their ol3lore re lects the environment in which the" liveAnot "et ?moderni:ed@ b" #uro$ean in luence. 2hough the coloni:ers, or the most $art, view the %gbo1s understanding o the world as rudimentar", the %gbo $erceive these animal stories, such as the account o how the tortoise1s shell came to be bum$", as logical ex$lanations o natural $henomena. Another im$ortant animal image is the igure o the sacred $"thon. #noch1s alleged 3illing and eating o the $"thon s"mboli:es the transition to a new orm o s$iritualit" and a new religious order. #noch1s disres$ect o the $"thon clashes with the %gbo1s reverence or it, e$itomi:ing the incom$atibilit" o colonialist and indigenous values.

*%mbols are ob(ects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts#

Achebe de$icts the locusts that descend u$on the village in highl" allegorical terms that $re igure the arrival o the white settlers, who will east on and ex$loit the resources o the %gbo. 2he act that the %gbo eat these locusts highlights how innocuous the" ta3e them to be. <imilarl", those who convert to Christianit" ail to reali:e the damage that the culture o the coloni:er does to the culture o the coloni:ed. 2he language that Achebe uses to describe the locusts indicates their s"mbolic status. 2he re$etition o words li3e ?settled@ and ?ever"@ em$hasi:es the suddenl" ubi>uitous $resence o these insects and hints at the wa" in which the arrival o the white settlers ta3es the %gbo o guard. Gurthermore, the locusts are so heav" the" brea3 the tree branches, which s"mboli:es the racturing o %gbo traditions and culture under the onslaught o colonialism and white settlement. !erha$s the most ex$licit clue that the locusts s"mboli:e the colonists is Obieri3a1s comment in Cha$ter 1-C ?the Oracle . . . said that other white men were on their wa". 2he" were locusts. . . .@

O3on3wo is associated with burning, ire, and lame throughout the novel, alluding to his intense and dangerous angerAthe onl" emotion that he allows himsel to dis$la". 6et the $roblem with ire, as O3on3wo ac3nowledges in Cha$ters 1+ and H*, is that it destro"s ever"thing it consumes. O3on3wo is both $h"sicall" destructiveAhe 3ills %3eme una and Ogbue i #:eudu1s sonAand emotionall" destructiveAhe su$$resses his ondness or %3eme una and #:inma in avor o a colder, more masculine aura. 0ust as ire eeds on itsel until all that is le t is a $ile o ash, O3on3wo eventuall" succumbs to his intense rage, allowing it to rule his actions until it destro"s him.

%m$ortant Iuotations #x$lained

Turning The Things and falcon fall apart+ turning cannot the in hear center the widening the cannot g%re falconer+ hold+

&ere anarch% is loosed upon the world# Achebe uses this o$ening stan:a o .illiam 9utler 6eats1s $oem ?2he <econd Coming,@ rom which the title o the novel is ta3en, as an e$igra$h to the novel. %n invo3ing these lines, Achebe hints at the chaos that arises when a s"stem colla$ses. 2hat ?the center cannot hold@ is an ironic re erence to both the imminent colla$se o the A rican tribal s"stem, threatened b" the rise o im$erialist bureaucracies, and the imminent disintegration o the 9ritish #m$ire. Achebe, writing in 19-9, had the bene it o retros$ection in de$icting Nigerian societ" and 9ritish colonialism in the 1590s. 6et Achebe1s allusion is not sim$l" $olitical, nor is it ironic on onl" one level. 6eats1s $oem is about the <econd Coming, a return and revelation o sorts. %n Things Fall Apart, this revelation re ers to the advent o the Christian missionaries &and the alleged revelation o their teachings', urther satiri:ing their su$$osed benevolence in converting the %gbo. Gor an agricultural societ" accustomed to a series o c"cles, including that o the locusts, the notion o return would be >uite credible and amiliar.

2he h"$erbolic and even contradictor" nature o the $assage1s language suggests the inabilit" o human3ind to thwart this colla$se. ?8ere anarch"@ is an ox"moron in a sense, since the de inition o anarch" im$lies an undeniabl" $otent level o radicalism. 2he abstraction in the language ma3es the $oem1s ideas universalC b" re erring to ?JtKhings@ alling a$art as o$$osed to s$eci "ing what those colla$sing or disintegrating things are, 6eats &and Achebe' leaves his words o$en to a greater range o inter$retations. %t is worth noting, in addition, that Achebe cuts awa" rom the $oem /ust as it $ic3s u$ its momentum and begins to s$ea3 o ?innocence drowned@ and ?blood4dimmed@ tides. %t is a measure o Achebe1s subtlet" that he $re ers a $rologue that is understated and suggestive, rather than $olemical, ranting, and violent.

And at last the locusts did descend# The% settled on e er% tree and on e er% blade of grass+ the% settled on the roofs and co ered the bare ground# &ight% tree branches broke awa% under them, and the whole countr% became the brown,earth color of the ast, hungr% swarm# 2his $assage rom Cha$ter + re$resents, in highl" allegorical terms, the arrival o the coloni:ers. 2he locusts have been coming or "ears, but their s"mbolic signi icance in this $assage lies in the inevitable arrival o the coloni:ers, which will alter the landsca$e and $s"cholog" o the %gbo $eo$le irre$arabl". 2he re$etition o the $hrase ?2he" settled,@ an exam$le o the rhetorical device ana$hora &in which a clause begins with the same word or words with which the $revious clause begins', in addition to the re$etition o the word ?ever",@ re lects the suddenl" ubi>uitous $resence o the locusts. 2he choice o the verb ?settle,@ o course, clearl" re ers to the coloni:ers. 2he branches that brea3 under the weight o the locusts are s"mbols o the traditions and cultural roots o %gbo societ", which can no longer survive under the onslaught o colonialism and white settlement. %ronicall", the ?vast, hungr" swarm@ is not white but rather brown li3e the earth7 the em$hasis, however, remains on the locusts1 consum$tive nature and inesca$able $resence.

Among the Igbo the art of con ersation is regarded er% highl%, and pro erbs are the palm,oil with which words are eaten# 2his >uote, rom the narrator1s recounting, in Cha$ter 1, o how )no3a calml" interacted with someone to whom he owed mone", alludes to the highl" so$histicated art o rhetoric $racticed b" the %gbo. 2his rhetorical ormalness o ers insight into the misunderstandings that occur between the %gbo and the #uro$eans. .hereas the latter value e icienc" and directness in their dealings, the %gbo value an adherence to their cultural traditions, which include certain $atterns o dialogue considered ine icient b" .estern standards. 2he meta$hor o words as ood is highl" a$$ro$riate, given the almost exclusivel" agricultural nature o %gbo societ". 2he" award the same value that the" $lace on ood, the sustenance o li e, to words, the sustenance o interaction and hence communit".

He had alread% chosen the title of the book, after much thought- The Pacification of the Primiti e Tribes of the !ower "iger# 2his sentence, which concludes the novel, satiri:es the entire tradition o western ethnogra$h" and im$erialism itsel as a cultural $ro/ect, and it suggests that the ethnogra$her in >uestion, the =istrict Commissioner, 3nows ver" little about his sub/ect and $ro/ects a great deal o his #uro$ean colonialist values onto it. 2he language o the commissioner1s $ro$osed title reveals how misguided he isC that he thin3s o himsel as someone who 3nows a great deal about $aci "ing the locals is highl" ironic, since, in act, he is a $rimar" source o their distress, not their $eace. Additionall", the notion o ?J$Kaci ication@ is inherentl" o ensiveAa condescending conce$tion o the natives as little more than hel$less in ants. <imilarl", the label ?J$Krimitive@ comes across as a $atroni:ing insult that re lects the commissioner1s ignorance about the %gbo and their com$lexl" rituali:ed and highl" ormali:ed mode o li e. 2he assertion that the commissioner has come u$ with a title ?a ter much thought@ accentuates the act that the level o attention he has $aid to his own thoughts and $erce$tions well exceeds that $aid to the actual sub/ect o the stud".

.Does the white man understand our custom about land/0 .How can he when he does not e en speak our tongue/ 1ut he sa%s that our customs are bad+ and our own brothers who ha e taken up his religion also sa% that our customs are bad# How do %ou think we can fight when our own brothers ha e turned against us/ The white man is er% cle er# He came 2uietl% and peaceabl% with his religion# 3e were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to sta%# "ow 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 ha e fallen apart#0 2his exchange occurs at the end o Cha$ter H0 during the conversation between Obieri3a and O3on3wo. %n the discussion, which centers on various events that have come to $ass since the arrival o the colonialists, Obieri3a seems to voice Achebe1s own thoughts on colonialism. )$set b" the act that the white men have come and com$letel" disregarded the %gbo sense o /ustice, Obieri3a $oints out the im$ossibilit" o the colonialists understanding an"thing about the )muo ians without s$ea3ing their language. ,e $oints out the ludicrousness o denigrating un amiliar customs. 6et, Obieri3a does not la" the blame wholl" on the side o the white man. ,e eels also that the )muo ians who have converted to Christianit" have consciousl" and wrongl" turned their bac3s on their own ?brothers.@ 2his assessment com$licates our understanding o the novel, as Achebe $revents us rom seeing matters in clear4cut terms o good &blac3' versus bad &white'. %ndeed, Achebe elsewhere attem$ts to demonstrate the validit" o some >uestions about %gbo culture and tradition. % religion and tradition are the threads that hold the clan together, and i that religion is lawed and that tradition vulnerable, it becomes hard to determine who

is at ault or the resulting destruction. Certainl", Achebe does not blame the villagers. 9ut, while this >uotation dis$la"s his condemnation o the colonialists or their disres$ect toward %gbo customs, it also shows his criticism o some clan members1 res$onses to the colonial $resence.

Be" Gacts

F U L L T I T L % L Things Fall Apart A U T H # R L Chinua Achebe T / P % # F 0 # R , L Novel G % N R % L !ostcolonial criti>ue7 traged" L A N G U A G % L #nglish P L A ! % 0 R I T T % N L 19-9, Nigeria


A T % # F F I R S T P U 1 L I ! A T I # N L 19-9 P U 1 L I S H % R L ,einemann #ducational 9oo3s N A R R A T # R L 2he narrator is anon"mous but shows s"m$ath" or the various residents o )muo ia. P # I N T # F 2 I % 0 L 2he narration is in the third $erson, b" an omniscient igure who ocuses on O3on3wo

but switches rom character to character to detail the thoughts and motives o various individuals.
T # N % L %ronic, tragic, satirical, ableli3e T % N S % L !ast S % T T I N G 3 T I * % 4 L 1590s

S % T T I N G 3 P L A ! % 4 L Dower Nigerian villages, %guedo and 8banta in $articular P R # T A G # N I S T L O3on3wo * A J # R ! # N F L I ! T L On one level, the con lict is between the traditional societ" o )muo ia and the new

customs brought b" the whites, which are in turn ado$ted b" man" o the villagers. O3on3wo also struggles to be as di erent rom his deceased ather as $ossible. ,e believes his ather to have been wea3, e eminate, la:", ignominious, and $oor. Conse>uentl", O3on3wo strives to be strong, masculine, industrious, res$ected, and wealth".
R I S I N G A ! T I # N L #noch1s unmas3ing o an egwugwu, the egwugwu's burning o the church, and the

=istrict Commissioner1s snea3" arrest o )muo ian leaders orce the tension between )muo ia and the coloni:ers to a brea3ing $oint.
! L I * A 5 L O3on3wo1s murder, or uchu, o a court messenger F A L L I N G A ! T I # N L 2he villagers allow the white government1s messengers to esca$e, and O3on3wo,

reali:ing the wea3ness o his clan, commits suicide.

T H % * % S L 2he struggle between tradition and change7 var"ing inter$re4tations o masculinit"7 language as a

sign o cultural di erence

* # T I F S L )hi, animal imager" S / * 1 # L S L 2he novel is highl" s"mbolic, and it as3s to be read in s"mbolic terms. 2wo o the main

s"mbols are the locusts and ire. 2he locusts s"mboli:e the white colonists descending u$on the A ricans, seeming to augur good but actuall" $ortending troublesome encounters. Gire e$itomi:es O3on3wo1s natureA he is ierce and destructive. A third s"mbol, the drums, re$resents the $h"sical connection o the communit" o clansmen in )muo ia, and acts as a meta$horical heartbeat that beats in unison, uniting all the village members.
F # R % S H A # 0 I N G L 2he author1s initial descri$tion o %3eme una as an ?ill4 ated bo",@ which $resages

his eventual murder b" O3on3wo7 the arrival o the locusts, which s"mboli:es the eventual arrival o the coloni:ers7 Obieri3a1s suggestion that O3on3wo 3ill himsel , which oretells O3on3wo1s eventual suicide