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Philippines Women’s University

Junior Middle Division


Taft Avenue, Manila

“CHINUA ACHEBE’S ‘Things Fall Apart’”


(A Book Review in English 2)

Analyzed by: Stacey Kate M. Posion


Section: II-Courage

Presented to: Mrs. Editha G. Celis


Date: 29th of February, year 2008
I. TITLE: “Things Fall Apart”

The title suited for the story because the connections of the whole village fell apart.
The elder people seem divided in how to deal with the attack on their culture and their
lives. The cultures, traditions and beliefs that held them together have fallen apart.

We learn that if we stick to our own pride, fear and ignorance, we could easily be
overtaken and destructed by other forces.

II. Author’s profile

Chinua Achebe , born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on November 16, 1930, is a


Nigerian novelist, poet and critic. He is best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart
(1958), which is the most widely-read book in modern African literature.

Raised by Christian parents in the Igbo village of Ogidi in south Nigeria, Achebe
excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became
fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories
as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting
Service and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention for
Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960),
Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987).
Achebe wrote his novels in English and has defended the use of English, a language of
colonisers, in African literature.

Achebe's parents, Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunam, were
converts to the Protestant Church Mission Society (CMS) in Nigeria .The elder Achebe
stopped practicing the religion of his ancestors, but he respected its traditions and
sometimes incorporated elements of its rituals into his Christian practice. Chinua's
unabbreviated name, Chinualumogu ("May God fight on my behalf"), was a prayer for
divine protection and stability. The Achebe family had five other surviving children,
named in a similar fusion of traditional words relating to their new religion: Frank
Okwuofu, John Chukwuemeka Ifeanyichukwu, Zinobia Uzoma, Augustine Nduka, and
Grace Nwanneka.

The colonial impact on the Igbo in Achebe's novels is often affected by


individuals from Europe, but institutions and urban offices frequently serve a similar
purpose. The courts and the position of District Commissioner in Things Fall Apart
likewise clash with the traditions of the Igbo, and remove their ability to participate in
structures of decision-making. The British colonialism in Africa is the reasons and factors
he wrote such tragic novel endings. And it represented with the traditional influence of
fate, individual and the society.
III. Setting:

The novel is set in a small village of Iguedo, district of Umuofia with nine villages,
situated in Africa. The time period is in colonial history when the British were occupying
and influencing Africa, economically, culturally, and politically. Umuofia is an Igbo
village that gives importance in their cultures, traditions and ceremonies. It is a village
that is respected by those around it as being strong, powerful and rich. Each person has a
hut that is located in the center of a compound. The main source of living of the men is
sowing and growing yams. And the form of their money is the cowry shells.

The place and seasons are stated in the story but the time is implied. The time of
invasion of the village implies in the history, is set in the 1890s; I could guess the setting
of time had happened many years before it was colonized. Their old and early activities
had been there and implied by Achebe, the writer, through the customs and traditions of
the village people.

IV. Characters: Major Character

Okonkwo is tall and big strong man. He is a brave, famous and the best wrestler at age
eighteen, who brought honor to his village. He is forty years old, he has three wives and
several children who all live in their own homes in his village compound. He is a strict
father and most of his ambition for his family started from his father’s attitude and
laziness. He is a farmer and very successful in growing yams. He is respected of his
wealth and status, without any support from family. He is a major character and the
protagonist of the novel. But in the later part of the novel, he is an antagonist. His
characteristic is flat because he never changed his attitude towards their superstitious
beliefs, customs, tradition and culture. He refuses to follow the Christian missionaries,
even when almost the entire village has. His impatience and quick temper make him
break the rules of his village for his rash behavior. He has his faults, and it is these faults
that lead to his suicide. His impulsive and rash nature makes him break the rules of the
sacred week of peace. It is his carelessness that results in his exile from his village for
seven years. And in the end, it is his anger and rash temper which pushes him to kill a
white man and pushes him to hang himself because he sees no way out of the situation
with the white men.

Minor Characters

Nwoye is Okonkwo’s eldest son from his first wife. He is fifteen years old, an unhappy
and lonely boy because of his father. He found happiness through the friendship of
Ikemefuna, two years older, and felt like a real older brother to him. He is a sensitive
young man who is against certain customs of the village. His confusion about Igbo
customs such as the killing of Ikemefuna and leaving of the twins in the forest are all
answered by this new faith. He changed his African name to a Christian name, Isaac. He
stayed longer schooling at new college for teachers. His characteristic is round because
he stood up for his own decision and belief.
Ikemefuna is a boy who is brought as an exchange of murdered Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s wife
in Mbaino. He lives with Okonkwo and felt very proud like a real son for three years. He
is eighteen years old, tall and strong. He became a friend to Nwoye, like a real brother
because he seems knew everything. But the Oracle had already decided Ikemefuna’s fate,
he was to be killed and he is led into the forest along with a band of men including
Okonkwo and killed.

Ekwefi is very beautiful young girl when he married Okonkwo. She feels very excited
and always happy when she watches a wrestling match. She had fallen in love to
Okonkwo, the first time she watched him wrestled and won the match. She is forty-five
years old and a good cook. She is the second wife and the mother of Ezinma, her only
living child, whom she will do anything for even if that means not to follow their
tradition. She had ten children but the other nine died.

Ezinma is the only child of Ekwefi and Okonkwo. She is ten years old and all her nine
brothers and sisters had died. She had always been a sickly child at young age and her
mother treated her with love and caring. Her father is fond of her and often wishes that
‘she were a boy.’ Ezinma is not a major character of the novel

Obierika is Okonkwo’s best and loyal friend. He helps him with the crops and sends him
the money during his period of exile, and keeps him informed of the changes taking place
in the village. He is a thoughtful man, who questions the traditions of society. He is also
Maduka and Ekuke’s father.

Mr. Brown is a white missionary, who works very hard in introducing Christianity to the
village people. He is a kind and understanding man who is friendly and helpful towards
the people. He changed the people slowly. He built a school and a little hospital. He
encourages the people to read and write. He became ill and left the village forever in the
later part of the novel.

Mr. Smith is Mr. Brown’s successor, but very different from him. He openly dislikes Mr.
Brown’s ways of treating the village people. He is one of the antagonists of the Christian
missionaries who wish to invade all the villages of Umuofia with their way of thinking
and forced many people to convert into Christian. He is always rude and disrespectful
towards the leaders of the village. He invites Okonkwo with five other leaders and then
handcuffs them. The leaders are beaten and their hair shaved off. Because of Okonkwo’s
anger he had killed one of his messengers, who had been sent to stop a meeting of the
village people.

District Commissioner is the antagonist man who brought a new kind of government and
built a court in the village. He judged people who disobeyed the new laws. He ordered to
handcuff the six leaders of the village and imprisons them. He is heartless and only
concerned about the material things. At the end, he orders his men to take down the dead
body of Okonkwo from the tree, and bury it.
Uchendu is Okonkwo’s uncle, and the eldest of his mother’s family. He is an old wise
man with whom he spends seven years of his exile, along with his family.

Chielo is the priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves, who carries Ezinma
on her back to the caves, saying that Agbala wants to see her. She is a special servant of a
god. They do things that the god tells them to do. They also tell the people what the god
wants them to do.

Eziani is the priest of the Earth Goddess. He is a special servant of a god. They do things
that the god tells them to do. They also tell the people what the god wants them to do.

Unoka is Okonkwo’s father. He is very lazy and did not like work. He is poor, has no
money because of drinking palm wine, and had passed his time by playing the flute. He is
afraid of fighting but very happy with music and during drinking and singing songs.

Maduka is Obierika’s son who joins and wins the wrestling match.

Ogbuefi Ezendu is the oldest and respected man in Umuofia. His wife had been killed by
Mbaino. He warned Okonkwo not to get too close to Ikemefuna, since the Oracle had
pronounced his death already and then tells him not to join in his death. He dies a
respected warrior.

Enoch is a rude African convert who tears off the leader’s mask of the egwugwu--the
masked spirits of the ancestors, at a very important religious ceremony, creating conflict
in the village.

Agbala is the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves, a god who speaks to the people through
the mouth of its priest or priestess and tells the people what to do and she advices the life
in the village of Umuofia. No one has ever beheld Agbala, except his priestess.

Ojiubo is Okonkwo’s third wife and mother of his other children.

Okika is the man who speaks against the white men and African missionaries in the
market meeting.

Osu person is a man who follows a different god. He can not talk and marry an ordinary
person. He has a long hair and dirty. He can never be a ruler in the clan.

I like Nwoye’s characteristics the best because he changed for good and followed
his view of life and decision. He questions with their customs and traditions that he can
not understand. When he found a new religion that opened his mind he converted and
followed it.

The least character I like is Okonkwo, his attitude and perception about life depends
on his pride. He does not show his love to his wives and children. He does not care for
their feelings of his family and the village people.
These two characters personality and attitude does exist in real life. There are
people who seek to change for good and there are other people who stayed for what they
believed because of greed that makes our society a bad image.

V. Summary

The story describes the life of Okonkwo. He is ambitious and powerful leader of an
Igbo tribe. He is proud on his physical strength and courage. His compound is large, he
has no problems with his three wives, his garden grows yams, and he is respected by his
fellow villagers. When Okonkwo accidentally kills a clansman, he left his clan for seven
years as a punishment. Okonkwo and his family stayed in Mbanta, after seven years they
went back to Umuofia. The white missionaries came and built a church and converted the
village people to Christians. And then, they were forced by the District Commissioner to
follow the new religion and new law. Okonkwo is destroyed and killed himself because of
his unwillingness to change and made him separate from the community and he is
fighting alone against the British government.

a. THEME

The theme of the novel is the colonization and conversion to Christianity of


tribal peoples has destroyed their culture and traditional way of life in Africa. The
missionaries enforced and imposed on the cultures to be civilized but in effect of
being cruel and rude government. They moved the tribe peoples away from the
superstitious practices and convert them to Christian.

Okonkwo, who is ambitious and hardworking and he believes strongly in his


traditions. He wishes to achieve the highest position in his village but his rash and
quick temper leads to his downfall. He refuses to break away from his traditional
and religious values, which results in his own death.

b. MOOD/TONE

The ancestral spirits showed a dark, sad and scary mood. The tone is ironic,
tragic, fablelike but there are times of celebration and joy during festival seasons
with the wrestling contests and the Week of Peace. The villagers have strong faith
and deep beliefs and do not allow any kind of carelessness with their customs.

c. CONFLICT

The external conflict arises when the encounter between Igbo tradition and
Christian religion. With the invasion of the Christians, the villagers find
themselves at a loss. The Christians even begin living in the evil forest, in order to
prove to the villagers that all their beliefs about its evilness are baseless. Twins
and osu were allowed to enter into their church.
The internal conflict when his manhood overpowers everything feminine in
his life, including his own conscience. For example, when he feels bad after
killing his adopted son, he asks himself: “When did you become a shivering old
woman?” He dislikes all feminine things, because they remind him of his father's
laziness and cowardice.

d. CLIMAX

The climax point in the novel arises when, Okonkwo, without realizing it,
accidentally shoots a young member of his community and kills him. It was an
accident, he has to follow with the law, and he should be exiled from his village
for seven years. He has to live in exile for seven long years of his life in his
mother’s land, Mbanta.

Another climax in the novel is when the missionaries enforce the new law in
the lives of the villagers. Until then the people were governed only by the
traditional Igbo culture, tradition and custom. But the invasion of the missionaries
changes the lives of the villagers largely.

e. DENOUMENT/ENDING

The missionaries provided many good services to the villagers. They build a
church, a hospital, a school and also a court and trading store for the villagers.
Their culture has been changed as well as social well being of the village is gone
forever.

Okonkwo discovers that everything has changed when he returned to his


village after his exile. All of the customs, values and beliefs of the village have
been changed and fell apart, he felt alone that resulted to his tragic death.

f. STYLE

The author created an impact in the novel through the use of stream
consciousness. His friend Obierika’s words describe the tragedy most powerful
“That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill
himself; and now he will be buried like a dog.”

The narrator is anonymous in the various villagers of Umuofia. The narration


is in the third person point of view, who focuses on Okonkwo but switches from
character to character to detail the thoughts and motives of various individuals.

The Oracle clan god serves as a foreshadowing in the story that foretells the
destiny or path of life of a person or event in the village.
There is local color whereas Achebe’s use of Igbo words like egwugwu and
ogbanje that is translated in the novel itself but briefly explained in the story or
glossary.

Uchendu, Okonkwo’s uncle used a figurative language when he said: “For


whom is it well, for whom is it well? There is no one for whom it is well,”
encouraging to shake Okonkwo out of his self-pity, to be happy with his wives
and children in his mother’s land.

Okonkwo’s characterization is the dominant element in the novel from the


beginning to the end. The whole story focuses on his attitude and perception and
his disposition and decision towards life.

The wrestling match of the festival is the most interesting part of the story for
me because I like watching the WWF (Worldwide Wrestling Federation).
Although my mother tells me that it is too violent for me, I still like the sense of
sportsmanship, strength and braveness of contestants of the match.

VI. Standard values

Factual value:

I learned that their story against their colonizer is almost the same with our story.
Like Dr. Jose Rizal’s works and novels, we have experienced the same situation. I could
relate to the story of Africans.

Achebe, like Dr. Rizal is trying not only to inform the outside world about Igbo
and Filipino cultural traditions, but to remind us, his own people of their past and it had
contained much of value through their works and novels.

Psychological value:

The people in Umuofia learned to live in harmony with the nature. They have a
culture based on religion and nature. They worshipped many different gods and
goddesses who represented elements of the natural world; Earth and Heaven, Water, Hills
and Caves. They had priests and priestesses who are capable of physical and psychic
healing, Oracles who could foretell the future, and spirits of ancestors who controlled
traditions, gave orders and guided the tribe at time of crises. This system of control
worked very well for many years for them.

Symbolical value:

Okonkwo’s suicide is symbolic of the self-destruction of the tribe, for he was the
symbol of power and pride that the tribe had and with its death, the tribe’s culture and
traditions gave way to a more dominant one. With his death, the old way of life is gone
forever.
Ethical value:

There are two kinds of crime against the Earth Goddess: the male crime is a crime
when the crime was not an accident, and the other one is female crime when there was an
accident. It is the same with the crimes of murder with intention to put death and
homicide with no intention to kill a person.

VII. Reaction and suggestions

The story in the beginning part is a little bit boring. But in the later part, I find their
traditions inhuman and frightening. The story made an impact on me when the Oracle
ordered that they should kill a human being, even if it is his family or relative. God gave
us life and no one or anything should tell that someone must die.

I would not change the ending of the story because it fits him or his personality. The
ending of the novel serves an eye opener that we should not rely on our pride and rash to
our decisions and tempers.

I would encourage other readers who have not read this novel to read the whole
book from beginning to end. This would give them a good picture what had happened to
other countries that is been invaded and colonized by other countries.

It also serves a good example for those people who are greedy in power and relies
only with their pride. This would serves as a warning not to follow their desires without
keeping in mind their family and loved ones.