“Things Fall Apart,” written by Chinua Achebe, is a classic novel set in the late 19th century in Nigeria, during the period of colonialism. The story flashes through the eyes of Okonkwo, a respected and fierce warrior in his village, who witnesses the transition of his culture and land at the hands of British colonists.
The novel is segmented into three parts. In the first, Okonkwo is a successful farmer whose work ethic and strength have earned him a respected position within the tribe. Achebe describes the tribe’s culture in detail, which provides the background for Oknokwo’s physical and mental abuse that toward his three wives and 10 children.
Conflict ensues when British colonizers arrive in their land and subtly impose their way of life onto the tribe. The issue of fighting for one’s culture is central to the novel, and Achebe brilliantly explores the protagonist’s conflict as he remains loyal to his tribe while still trying to understand the colonizers.
Things begin to fall apart for Okonkwo as his tribe hesitantly allows the colonizers to grow their influence, churches and towns in their area, leaving everything he has worked for in jeopardy. The fragile relationship with his son, Nwoye, tumbles due to his stubbornness and the slick-talking of a local British missionary, Mr. Brown. Over time, Mr. Brown fascinates Nwyoye with Christianity’s teachings, leading him away from his prideful and aggressive father.
One of the most impressive aspects of “Things Fall Apart” is how Achebe depicts the distinct disaster between the Igbo people and the British. The author does not shy away from his critiques of colonialism and the damage it caused to African societies. Achebe masterfully shows how the misunderstandings of both cultures lead to the destruction of balance in Igbo society.
While the author appreciates his rich heritage, he also portrays the flaws of the Igbo culture. Through Oknokwo’s relationship with his family, he demonstrates the mistreatment of his wives and his quick reliance on using violence for conflict resolution. This honest approach deepens the character development and thickens the plot with more complex issues as the reader digs.
While masterful, the novel still has certain pain points. The pacing can be slow in the middle and may require readers to pay special attention to what is happening. This is supplemented by Achebe’s overly simplistic writing style that can detract from the sparse action.
“Things Fall Apart” is a riveting and moving novel that transports the reader into a world that has been glazed over in Western literature. Achebe’s effort to describe Igbo’s rich culture, which starkly contrasts with Europe, wraps this novel in a large red ribbon, bringing it all together. As one of the most well-known pieces of African literature across the world, this novel is a must-read for anyone curious about African history and culture through a reliable lens.