Author: Chinua Achebe
Summary: THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.
The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. THINGS FALL APART is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.
Review: I read Things Fall Apart in my English class. I had to write a report on it, fill out study guides, etc. It’s an older book, and definitely not the typical YA we’ve reviewed on this blog (for the most part).
It’s all about the destruction of the Ibo culture as a white man comes from Britain to colonize Africa; but the book focuses around one man, Okonkwo. He’s like the Hulk, really. Doesn’t think before he acts, and gets really, really mad really quickly.
Although a lot of people often don’t like the books they read in school, I liked Things Fall Apart. It’s a classic for a reason. Achebe’s style is superb. In order to get the western reader understanding the Ibo culture as much as possible, he spends much of the book in the exposition, getting the reader to know their customs and traditions. He also weaves African language into the text, teaching words (I will never forget the word egwugwu). I like learning when I read; whether it’s about philosophy, life, science, anything. I want to be exposed to something new. But when I read TFA, I learned so much about the African way of life. It breaks my heart knowing that imperialism almost completely wiped out a culture.
In a way, it reminded me a lot of the American Indian’s culture being wiped out. I mean, even in Disney’s Pocahontas, there’s a song that goes, “Savages! Savages! Barely even human.” But the thing is… even if these tribes in Africa, and the Indian’s tribes in the Americas… they weren’t savage. They had their customs, and we have ours. It’s sad, that people think they constantly need to be fixing everything. Even now-a-days, we see it. Trying to get everyone’s lives the same. Keeping up with the Joneses. It’s a vicious cycle, and who knows how many cultures we’ve lost to imperialism? Countless, I imagine.
This book really makes you think about all of that. Achebe is a brilliant writer, and even if Okonkwo is the tragic hero, I really like how the narration is kind of the voice of the tribe. The reader is not inclined to think that Okonkwo is right; in fact, in many occasions, we see where Okonkwo’s tragic flaw is evident to everyone around him.
And the ending! The ending was brilliant, even if it was short. If the reader was ignorant to Achebe’s purpose of the book, he pretty much spelled it out for the reader in just a paragraph without ever saying it. I loved it.
I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for a change of pace from the usual YA novel.
Review: ★★★★ 3.5/5 Stars