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Things Fall Apart

Introduction to Achebe's Novel

Kim Libby

on 19 September 2013

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Transcript of Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
November 16, 1930 - March 21, 2013
Born: Albert Chinualumogu Achebe
Chinualumogu: "May chi (personal divinity or God) fight for me."
Birthplace: Ogidi, a town loacated in southeastern Nigeria. A place of both traditional shines and St. Vincent Roman Catholic Church
Educated: University of Ibadan; University of London
Funeral in Nigeria: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-22646370
Relevant to the Text
Two social practices, both unattractive to Christian missionaries, characterized the Igbo and contradicts the Igbo's otherwise egalitarian social organization:

1. The killing of twins, whose birth was considered a curse that would bring calamity: "Plural offspring is nature's law for goats, cats and dogs, not for men."

2. Social contempt for the Osu or cult slave: Osu were often often captured individuals, non-native to the community: feared, hated, and considered "unclean": sacrifical lambs
Themes & Topics
The Igbo (Ibo) People
Who are the Igbo People? (Formally, "Ibo")

- Southeastern Nigeria: craftsman, farmers
- Subgroups organized by clan, lineage, village association, & dialect
- Fundamentally altered by the British Colonization.
- Mid-20th c. = united under strong ethnic identity: The Nigerian-Biafran War (1967-1970)

Naming & Market Days
There are four market days in Igbo tradition, Nkwo, Eke, Orie (or Oye) and Afo. Each must pass twice to make up an izu or one week.

A child may be named to indicate the market day on which (s)he was born:
Nweke (m), Okeke (m), Okereke (m) or Mgbeke (f)
Nwafor (m), Okafor (m), or Mgbafor (f);
Nwankwo (m), Okonkwo (m), Okoronkwo (m) or Mgbonkwo (f);
Nworie (m), Okorie (m), Okoghe (m) or Mgborie (f).
Things Fall Apart (1958)
'"Things Fall Apart,' Achebe's first novel, was published in 1958 in the midst of the Nigerian renaissance. It tells the story of an Ibo village of the late 1800's and one of its great men, Okonkwo, who has achieved much in his life.
Women in 'Things Fall Apart'
"Okonkwo hated anything weak or frail, and his descriptions of his tribe and the members of his family show that in Ibo society anything strong was likened to man and anything weak to woman."

This being said, there are examples in which women are shown deference and respect. Can you identify examples to support this claim?

What role does music and sound play in this novel? Locate one scene in which sound is integral to the overall significance of the moment.

Locate two proverbs in which you believe the following is true & explain:
"The proverb, Eira Patnaik says, 'penetrates to the heart of the situation and character, lending, at the same time, to succinct thought a freshness of expression and ingeniousness of idea'" ("Textual Proverbs in Proverbial Texts, 52).
An Example of a Proverb
"When a child washes his hands, he deserves to eat with his elders."
Achebe said that this Igbo proverb described the openness, the direct democracy, of Igbo affairs in his village ('Chinua Achebe, Teacher of Light,' p.12)
Wait...What's a proverb?
"Proverbs are popular sayings which contain advice or a general accepted rule."

More at: http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson184/proverb_definition.pdf
Writing in English
Achebe was the son of a Protestant missionary and was educated in English, AND he was one of the founders of the Nigerian renaissance that drew upon the traditional oral culture of idigenious peoples.

Why do make of Achebe's decision to write in English? What distinquishes Achebe's narrative style?
Linguistic Map of Africa
"The most impressive achievement of Things Fall Apart..." maintains David Carroll in his book *Chinua Achebe,* "is the vivid picture it provides of Ibo society at the end of the nineteenth century."
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