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Things Fall Apart is acclaimed as the finest novel written about life in Nigeria at the end of the nineteenth

century.
Published in 1958, it is unquestionably the world’s most widely read African novel, having sold more than eight million
copies in English and been translated into fifty languages.

Characters

Okonkwo

A clan leader, he has lived with the shame and embarrassment of his lazy and drunken father. Through his own hard work
and valor in war he has earned a sound reputation among his people. However, because he is terrified of appearing weak,
he overcompensates by being harsh and unyielding. This causes him trouble with his own family, the people of the
village, and his fellow elders.

Nwoye

The oldest son of Okonkwo. His father sees him as weak and lazy, that he has inherited the flaws of Okonkwo’s father.
With the help and influence of Ikemefuna, Nwoye begins to behave in ways that meet his father’s approval. However, he
questions the traditional ways of his tribe and is later converted to Christianity. Okonkwo sees this as weak and
effeminate.

Ezinma

Okonkwo’s daughter and child of his second wife, Ekwefi. She is the only one of Ekwefi’s children to survive past
infancy and she is treated as a special child. She calls her mother by her name and Ekwefi treats the child like a peer. She
is also Okonkwo’s favorite. He believes she understands him better than any of the other children. However, he refuses to
show affection because he thinks it is a sign of weakness, and he is disappointed that she is not a son.

Ikemefuna

Okonkwo took in this boy from a nearby village. He becomes close to Nwoye, and Okonkwo eventually develops a bond
with the boy. Ikemefuna even begins to call Okonkwo “father.” Even as he becomes a member of the family Okonkwo
remains distant to the boy because he does not want to appear weak.

Mr. Brown

One of the first white missionaries in Umofia, he is understanding of the customs of the people and is able to set up
agreements with them. He is respectful of the customs in Umofia even as he begins converting some of them to
Christianity. Under his watch, things remain peaceful.

Reverend James Smith

Mr. Brown’s replacement. He is a zealous missionary and treats the local customs with outright disdain. He represents the
worst of white colonialism as he provokes conflict and exerts Christian ideas without respect for indigenous ways. It his
Smith who sparks the final conflicts in the novel.
Initial Situation

Okonkwo’s a big fish in town.

Okonkwo is widely known and respected as a wealthy farmer, a man of titles with three wives, and a fearless warrior.

Conflict

Okonkwo’s terrified of being feminine and commits a couple crimes. Oops!

Okonkwo lives in fear of becoming like his father who Okonkwo sees as being effeminate and weak. Okonkwo even joins
in the group murder of his adoptive son, Ikemefuna, out of fear of seeming weak and cowardly. His behavior causes him
huge internal guilt and also alienates him from his son, Nwoye.

Even though Okonkwo doesn’t get into any kind of trouble for helping to murder Ikemefuna (since he wasn’t a member of
the clan), he’s in hot water when he accidentally kills a boy during a funeral. Since killing a clansman means exile for
seven years, Okonkwo has to leave town along with Mrs. Okonkwo, Mrs. Okonkwo, Mrs. Okonkwo, and the kids.

Complication

White men show up in town, pushing Christianity and the Queen of England on the Igbo.

As if Okonkwo doesn’t have enough on his plate, the white Christian missionaries show up, start converting villagers, and
force the English system of government on the Igbo people. Essentially the white men are destroying the clan’s unity.
Even Okonkwo’s oldest son joins the Christians. Now Okonkwo is faced with enemies of a different kind – not simply
fear of himself or his sons becoming womanly, but the potential that his whole tribe will be impotent and not fight the
white men.

Climax

Okonkwo gets fed up and kills one of the white government officials.

Okonkwo exercises his long-repressed desire to physically lash out at the missionaries. In an expression of his
masculinity, he hacks off a court messenger’s head. When none of the other villagers back him up, Okonkwo realizes that
his clansmen will never go to war against the white men.

Suspense

The white District Commissioner comes to make Okonkwo pay for his crime.

Okonkwo has clearly committed a serious crime. The District Commissioner heads to Okonkwo’s house to retaliate. It’s
unclear what Okonkwo will do.
Denouement

Okonkwo commits suicide by hanging himself.

The District Commissioner shows up only to find that Okonkwo has killed himself. Obierika accuses the District
Commissioner of forcing a great man to kill and dishonor himself, but he does get the District Commissioner to agree to
bury Okonkwo.

Conclusion

The white men win.

The District Commissioner walks away from Okonkwo’s body and thinks of the suicide as strange and intriguing material
for the book he’s writing, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. In the end, the District
Commissioner might write a paragraph on Okonkwo.

10 essential life lessons 'Things Fall Apart' taught us


1. The White man is very clever

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and
allowed him to stay. Now 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 have fallen apart.”

2. While age is respected, achievement would be revered.

"Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he
could eat with kings."

3. Suicide is an abomination

“It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not
be buried by his clansmen. His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it…”

4. Don't make trouble for others

"I have learned that a man who makes trouble for others makes trouble for himself.”

5. You can tell a ripe corn by its look.

“As our fathers said, you can tell a ripe corn by its look."
6. Unity and love for others is good for a society to grow

“A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own
homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his
own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”

7. A man must be able to control his family

“No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he
was not really a man.”

8. Success is not gained through luck but by hardwork.

"If ever a man deserved his success, that man was Okonkwo. At an early age he had achieved fame as the greatest wrestler
in all the land. That was not luck. At the most one could say that his chi or personal god was good. But the Ibo people
have a proverb that when a man say yes his chi says yes also. Okonkwo said yes very strongly; so his chi agreed. And not
only his chi but his clan too, because it judged a man by the work of his hands.”

9. Do not ridicule other people's culture.

“The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.”

10. And if you don't like Okonkwo, Achebe tells you:

“If you don't like my story,write your own”

WRITERS MOTIVATION:
Part of what motivated Achebe to write Things Fall Apart was the desire to capture the voice of indigenous African
identity. Achebe was fascinated with living in Lagos, an area in which he was able to see the collision between old and
new notions of African identity.

FICTION:
Although Things Fall Apart is a work of fiction, its depiction of Ibo tribes and customs is informative. Ibo proverbs are
included in the book; one of the more interesting is the story of the locusts.

WHY THINGS FALL APART?


"Things fall apart" can be said when something we believed would last forever, comes to an end. "
Things Fall Apart is a novel written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Published in 1958, its story chronicles pre-
colonial life in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans during the late nineteenth century.
Achebe's debut novel was first published in the UK by William Heinemann Ltd.
Author: Chinua Achebe
Publication date: 1958
Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd.
Country: Nigeria