Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
"The last four or five hundred years of European contact with Africa produced a body of literature that presented Africa in a very bad light and Africans in very lurid terms. The reason for this had to do with the need to justify the slave trade and slavery. … This continued until the Africans themselves, in the middle of the twentieth century, took into their own hands the telling of their story."
—Chinua Achebe, "An African Voice")
Nigerian Chinua Achebe is one of the world's most well-known and influential contemporary writers. His first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), is an early narrative about the European colonization of Africa told from the point of view of the colonized people. Published in 1958, the novel recounts the life of the warrior and village hero Okonkwo, and describes the arrival of white missionaries to his Igbo village and their impact on African life and society at the end of the nineteenth century. Through his writing, Achebe counters images of African societies and peoples as they are represented within the Western literary tradition and reclaims his own and his people's history.
This lesson introduces students to Achebe's first novel and to his views on the role of the writer in his or her society. It can be used alone or in conjunction with the related lesson Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart": Oral and Literary Strategies.
How does Achebe see the role of the writer/storyteller?
In what ways does Achebe use fiction to teach history?
To what extent is Things Fall Apart successful in communicating an alternative narrative to the dominant Western history of missionaries in Africa and other colonized societies?
Examine a piece of African literature to identify distinguishing literary features and traditions.
Examine how Achebe discusses and differentiates cultures and languages with a change over time approach.
Evaluate the effectiveness of presenting historical events and eras through fiction.
Differentiate between historical accounts and fictionalized accounts of history.
Assess narrative perspectives as culturally-positioned (i.e. Afrocentric and Eurocentric perspectives).