The Chinua Achebe Encyclopedia

By M. Keith Booker | Go to book overview

T

“TANGANYIKA—JOTTINGS OF A TOURIST.”

Achebe essay. See MorningYet on Creation Day.


TELEVISION ADAPTATIONS

. See Things Fall Apart (television miniseries).


THINGS FALL APART

, Achebe's first novel, was published in 1958, becoming the inaugural text in the Heinemann African Writers Series and one of the founding texts of modern African literature. It is almost certainly the African novel that is most often read by Western readers and most often taught in British and American classrooms. Not only is it a staple of college courses in African literature, but it is also widely taught in courses in world literature. It is also frequently taught in courses on African culture, society, and history as an introduction to the workings of a pre-colonial African community. As a result, Achebe's book is frequently the first African novel to be encountered by its Western readers, and rightfully so. Not only is the book one of the earliest important African novels, but it exemplifies a great number of the fundamental issues that typically face Western readers of African novels. For most readers the most memorable part of the book is its vivid evocation of Igbo society at the time of the first major incursions of British colonialism into the Igbo lands at the beginning of the twentieth century. Achebe has made it clear that his principal purpose in the book was to provide African readers with a realistic depiction of their pre-colonial past, free of the distortions and stereotypes imposed upon that past in European accounts.

Things Fall Apart can be divided into three basic segments. The initial section, spanning the first thirteen chapters, is largely concerned with providing readers with a vivid picture of the traditional way of life enjoyed by the inhabitants of an Igbo village before the incursion of the British. Focusing on the village of Iguedo, one of the nine confederated villages collectively known as Umuofia, this section of the book provides an account of the daily social, economic, political, family, and spiritual lives of the villagers, seen largely through an account of the character and activities of the protagonist, Okonkwo. As this part of the book ends, Okonkwo's old rusty gun explodes during the funeral ceremonies for Ezeulu, a prominent villager, killing the sixteen-year-old son of the deceased man. As a result of this event, Okonkwo and his family are exiled for seven years to the village of Mbanta, the traditional home of

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