Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart


Offering an insight into African culture that had not been portrayed before, Things Fall Apart is both a tragic and moving story of an individual set in the wider context of the coming of colonialism, as well as a powerful and complex political statement of cross-cultural encounters.

This guide to Chinua Achebe's compelling novel offers:

  • an accessible introduction to the text and contexts of Things Fall Apart
  • a critical history, surveying the many interpretations of the text from publication to the present
  • a selection of critical writing on Things Fall Apart, by Abiola Irele, Abdul Jan Mohamed, Biodun Jeyifo, Florence Stratton and Ato Quayson, providing a variety of perspectives on the novel and extending the coverage of key critical approaches identified in the survey section
  • cross-references between sections of the guide, in order to suggest links between texts, contexts and criticism
  • suggestions for further reading.

Part of the Routledge Guides to Literature series, this volume is essential reading for all those beginning detailed study of Things Fall Apart and seeking not only a guide to the novel, but a way through the wealth of contextual and critical material that surrounds Achebe's text.


With the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in 2008, the literary world will celebrate one of the most remarkable stories in the history of African literature. Few could have predicted the impact and influence that this first novel by an unknown young writer from Nigeria would have when it was first published in 1958. Things Fall Apart is not only the most celebrated Nigerian novel ever published, it is also the most widely read and studied work of African fiction, both abroad and throughout the continent itself. Since it was first published, the novel has sold around ten million copies worldwide and been translated into over forty-five languages, a feat unequalled by any other work of African fiction. Things Fall Apart has also proved to be an immensely influential work for African writers, becoming the progenitor of a whole movement in fiction, drama and poetry that focuses on the revaluation of traditional African cultures and the representation of culture conflicts that had their genesis in the colonial era. The extraordinary popular and critical acclaim for the novel, as well as its enduring influence, has led to its pre-eminent position as one of the iconic works of postcolonial fiction.

Although the novel was written in the pre-Independence Nigeria of the 1950s, it is set in the period around the beginning of the twentieth century when Europeans first came into contact with the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria. It is significant that in the final years of colonial rule in Nigeria, Achebe chose to recall an era when a traditional African community was being irrevocably transformed by the arrival of the British colonialists and missionaries. It is a novel which looks back elegiacally at this pre-colonial culture and to the epochal changes wrought by British colonialism, yet it is also a text which looks forward to the future, inscribed with both the idealism and the anxieties of the decade in which it was written. At the heart of the novel is the story of Okonkwo, one of the most compelling creations in all of modern African literature. He stands both resolutely for the beliefs and traditions of his culture, and implacably against the encroaching influence of the colonial usurpers. Okonkwo is undoubtedly a heroic figure, yet he is also a tragically flawed individual who comes to symbolize both the supreme embodiment, as well as the internal contradictions, of his culture’s ideals. What often makes Things Fall Apart such a memorable novel, however, is the cast of other characters who inhabit the community in which Okonkwo lives. Things Fall Apart was notable for being the first novel by a West African to . . .

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