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Things Fall Apart. By Chinua Achebe Adapted from: Chinua Achebe is one of the most well-known contemporary African writers. Born 1930. Many of his novels and short stories feature characters who are members of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria. Map of Africa. .

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things fall apart
Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe

Adapted from:

Many of his novels and short stories feature characters who are members of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria.

Published in 1959,Things Fall Apart deals with the clash of cultures and the violent transitions in life and values brought about by British colonialism in Nigeria in late 1800s.

  • A system by which a country (in TFA, Great Britain) maintains foreign colonies (Nigeria) in order to exploit them economically.
  • The domineering country sometimes feels culturally superior to the “natives” and often forces its customs and religion upon them.
The novel recounts the life of the village hero Okonkwo and describes the arrival of white missionaries in Nigeria and their impact on traditional Igbo society during the late 1800s.
Things Fall Apart includes Ibo words and phrases, proverbs, fables, tales, and other elements of African oral and communal storytelling traditions.
plot summary
Plot Summary
  • The main character, Okonkwo, is a great man who has achieved much in his life.
  • He is a champion wrestler, a wealthy farmer, a husband to three wives, a title-holder among his people.
  • His success is driven by the fear of becoming like his father, who appears poor and cowardly.
The society’s order is disrupted, however, with the appearance of the white man in Africa and with the introduction of the Europeans’ religion (Christianity).
"The conflict of the novel, shown in Okonkwo, derives from the series of crushing blows which are leveled at traditional values by an alien and more powerful culture causing, in the end, the traditional society to fall apart" (G.D. Killam).
ibo or igbo
Ibo or Igbo
  • The name of Okonkwo’s tribe in Nigeria
alligator pepper
Alligator pepper
  • It is a common ingredient in West African cuisine where it imparts both 'heat', 'pungency' and a spicy aroma to classic West African 'soups' (stews).
  • Ground and blended with kola nut in a ritual to welcome visitors
white chalk
White chalk
  • Symbol of peace. Also used to signify personal honors and status.
bride price
Bride Price
  • Common in many African cultures; the bridegroom’s family pays in cash or goods for the privilege of marring a young woman. (dowry – opposite – woman’s family pays for man to marry her).
  • Large living quarters for the head of the family
  • A village of the Ibo
  • A bean, a stimulant like tea or coffee
  • Served on most social occasions
  • unlawful killing without the intent to kill (accidental)
cowrie shells
Cowrie shells
  • A sea shell used as a form of money.
  • The village’s distance from the sea makes them rare enough to use as money.
palm oil
Palm oil
  • Rich yellow oil pressed from fruit of palm trees
  • Used for fuel & cooking
Palm oil comes from palm nuts which are harvested by climbing high up in palm trees.  
  • Palm wine is also tapped in the same area on the tree. 
  • Palm wine tappers make holes in the tree at the base of the male flower.  
  • Using funnels made of palm leaves the tappers collect the palm wine as it drips from the tree into gourds that they hang from the palm fronds.
  • The practice or condition of having more than one spouse, esp. wife, at one time
  • A person’s personal spirit (usually in the form of a wooden idol)--like a guardian angel
  • sweet potato
  • In some African cultures it was used as currency
foo foo
foo foo
  • a dough-like West African dish of boiled and ground plantain, yam, or cassava, made into balls to go with soups or stews
evil forest
Evil Forest
  • Superstitious natives believe that evil spirits lurk in the mysterious forest
  • Dust-laden winds originating in the desert
  • Usually last 3-5 days
  • Dusty haze usually blocks out the sun, reduces temperatures and visibility
  • A person believed to be in communication with a deity (god or gods)
  • The village green, where assemblies for sports, discussions, etc., take place
  • Two-pitch Ibo log (wooden) drum played with a stick or mallet
  • A musical instrument; a type of drum made from pottery
  • Metal gong
  • A masquerader who impersonates one of the ancestral spirits of the village