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Things Fall Apart

Background To The Book

• ‘Things Fall Apart’ was written by Chinua Achebe who was from Nigeria. He
was the son of missionary teachers Isaiah Okafo and Janet Achebe and
raised as a Christian.
• ‘Things Fall Apart’ which was Achebe’s first novel was published in 1958.
• It is considered to be the black man’s response to colonialism. It was written
as a response to Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ who portrayed Africa
as a primitive cultureless land/region. Achebe wanted to show that Africa is
not as socially backward as Conrad portrays that. He wanted to give
westerners a better understanding of traditional African culture and
• It is the storey of the clash between native Nigerian peoples (the Igbo
peoples) and the white colonial government who overtook their village.
• Achebe
Plot Synopsis
• Things Fall Apart is set in the 1890’s and is the storey about a man Okonkwo and the
traditional way of life in his village Umuofia.
• Okonkwo’s father was seen to be a lazy man who had gained no titles throughout
their village and also owed a lot of money to different peoples. This in the village was
seen as very shameful and so Okonkwo became ashamed of his father and did
everything in his power to be nothing like him. He began to build his social status by
throwing the Cat in a wrestling match. Okonkwo was a strong willed, hard working
man who did not like to show weakness to anyone. Unlike his father Okonkwo was
wealthy and held a position of power among his people.
• Because of his position in their village Okonkwo was chosen to be the guardian of the
boy Ikemefuna. He had been given to the village as a piece offering to a dispute with
a neighbouring village. Okonkwo was to take care of Ikemefuna until the village elder
say to do otherwise. Ikemefuna lives with Okonkwo and his family for three years. He
comes to look at Okonkwo as his father and Okonkwo looks at him as a son, although
he does not admit it.
• Later the village elders say that the boy must be killed and the eldest man of the
village tells Okonkwo that he must not have anything to do with it because it would be
like killing his own son. Okonkwo seeing this as a sign of weakness refuses and so
he kills the boy himself.
• Things start to fall apart when Okonkwo accidentally kills someone at a funeral
ceremony and so Okonkwo and his family were sent into exile for seven years to
satisfy the gods. They went to Okonkwo’s mother’s village.
• While Okonkwo and his family are in exile white men start to come to his
village and introduce his people to their culture and religion. People
slowly start to convert to this new religion (Christianity). As the number of
villagers converting increases the power of the white men over their
community grows and so a ‘white mans’ government is introduced.
• Okonkwo and his family return after their seven years in exile to find his
village completely changed and run by white men. Okonkwo and some
of the tribal leaders try to reclaim the village from the white settlers. They
start by burning down a Christian Church that they believe has offended
their gods. The white settlers held them captive and demanded a
random, adding more insult to the native leaders.
• The natives of Umuofia came together to uprise against the white man’s
government. The government tried to stop their uprising and so
Okonkwo killed one of the white settlers.
• Okonkwo hopelessly realises that the people of Umuofia are not going to
fight for their traditional way of life. And so when the white men come to
take Okonkwo to court they realise that he has hanged himself.
Destroying his great reputation that he strived for so long to get.
• Okonkwo
– Strong willed
– Hard working
– Did not like to show weakness
– Often Violent to make his point understood
– Became a great warrior as a result of Tribal Conflicts and held a
position of power.
– Hated his father because of his laziness and did everything in his
power to be nothing like him.
– Took part in killing Ikemefuna.
• Unoka:
– Lazy mam, preferred playing on his flute rather than working on their
– Many debts which were never paid before his death.
• Nwoye:
– Okonkwo’s eldest son and child of his eldest wife.
– Becoming lazy.
– He grew close with Ikemefuna.
– As his father was apart of the group that killed
Ikemefuna, Nwoye grew distant with his father.
– Didn’t agree with some aspects of his native religion
and so easily converted to Christianity.
• Ikemefuna :
– Was given to Okonkwo to take care of.
– Lived with them for three years
– Became apart of their family
– Killed by the village leaders and Okonkwo.
• Obierika:
– Takes care of Okonkwo’s home while he’s in
– Warns Okonkwo about the dangerous white
• Mr. Kiaga:
– Igbo convert to Christianity.
– Builds a church in the Evil Forest.
– The Church thrives despite native scepticism
– Acts as translator for the missionaries.
• Mr. Brown:
– Missionary who comes to Okonkwo’s village.
– Tries to make the relationship between the Igbo
people and the Christian's stable.
– Respected by some of the men in the village.
– Builds a small school and hospital.
– Some of the children go to the school to learn to read
and write.
– Discussions with the medicine man, each trying to
convert the other.
• Mr. Smith:
– Replaces Mr Brown as head of the church.
– Thinks the non believers have to be destroyed.
– Conflict between the natives and the settlers while under control.
• District Commissioner:
– Corrupt and violent to the villagers.
– Tricks the tribal leaders and Okonkwo to
come to their headquarters.
– Finds Okonkwo’s dead body
– Only aware of the strangeness of the natives
and interested in filling his book with stories of
the people.