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Things Fall Apart


Things Fall Apart Cover

ISBN13: 9780385474542
ISBN10: 0385474547
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. The Ibo religious structure consists of chi--the personal god--and many other gods and goddesses. What advantages and disadvantages does such a religion provide when compared with your own?

2. The text includes many original African terms and there is a glossary provided. Do you find that this lends atmospheric authenticity, thus bringing you closer to the work? Do you find it helpful?

3. There is an issue here of fate versus personal control over destiny. For example, Okonkwo's father is sometimes held responsible for his own actions, while at other times he is referred to as ill-fated and a victim of evil-fortune. Which do you think Okonkwo believes is true? What do you think Achebe believes is true? What do you believe?

4. The threads of the story are related in a circular fashion, as opposed to a conventional linear time pattern. What effect does this impose on the tale of Ikemefuma? What effect does it have on the story of Ezinma?

5. The villagers believe--or pretend to believe--that the "Supreme Court" of the nine egwugwu are ancestral spirits. In fact, they are men of the village in disguise. What does this say about the nature of justice in general, and in this village in particular?

6. Our own news media pre-programs us to view the kind of culture clash represented here as being purely racial in basis. Does Achebe's work impress as being primarily concerned with black versus white tensions? If not, what else is going on here?

7. Certain aspects of the clan's religious practice, such as the mutilation of a dead child to prevent its spirit from returning, might impress us as being barbaric. Casting an honest eye on our own religious practices, which ones might appear barbaric or bizarre to an outsider?

8. In an essay entitled "The Novelist as Teacher," Achebe states: "Here then is an adequate revolution for me to espouse--to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement" (Hopes and Impediments, p. 44). In what ways do you feel that this novel places Achebe closer to the fulfillment of this noble aspiration?

9. Nature plays an integral role in the mythic and real life of the Ibo villagers, much more so than in our own society. Discuss ways in which their perception of animals--such as the cat, the locust, the python--differ from your own, and how these different beliefs shape our behavior.

10. The sacrifice of Ikemefuma could be seen as being a parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus. The event also raises a series of questions. Ikemefuma and the villagers that are left behind are told that he is "going home" (p. 58). Does this euphemism for dying contain truth for them? Do they believe they are doing him a favor? Why do they wait three years, him and Okonkwo's family to think of him as a member of the family? Finally, Okonkwo, "the father," allows the sacrifice to occur as God presumably allowed Christ's sacrifice, with no resistance. How can one accept this behavior and maintain love for the father or God?

11. Of Ezinma, Okonkwo thinks: "She should have been a boy" (p. 64). Why is it necessary to the story that Okonkwo's most favored child be a girl?

12. Of one of the goddesses, it is said: "It was not the same Chielo who sat with her in the market...Chielo was not a woman that night" (p. 106). What do you make of this culture where people can be both themselves and also assume other personas? Can you think of any parallels in your own world?

13. There are many proverbs related during the course of the narrative. Recalling specific ones, what function do you perceive these proverbs as fulfilling in the life of the Ibo? What do you surmise Achebe's purpose to be in the inclusion of them here?

14. While the traditional figure of Okonkwo can in no doubt be seen as the central figure in the tale, Achebe chooses to relate his story in the third person rather than the first person narrative style. What benefits does he reap by adopting this approach?

15. Okonkwo rejects his father's way and is, in turn, rejected by Nwoye. Do you feel this pattern evolves inevitably through the nature of the father/son relationship? Or is there something more being here than mere generational conflict?

16. The lives of Ikemefuma and Okonkwo can be deemed parallel to the extent that they both have fathers whose behavior is judged unacceptable. What do you think the contributing factors are to the divergent paths their fate takes them on as a result of their respective fathers' shadows?

17. The title of the novel is derived from the William Butler Yeats poem entitled The Second Coming, concerned with the second coming of Christ. The completed line reads: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." What layers of meaning are discernible when this completed line is applied to the story?

18. The District Commissioner is going to title his work The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Niger (p. 209). What do you interpret from this to be his perception of Okonkwo and the people of Umuofia? And what do you imagine this augurs in the ensuing volumes in Achebe's trilogy of Nigerian life?

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dreena, August 6, 2014 (view all comments by dreena)
What does it mean to be civilized? Do we have the right to change a country's customs and values based upon our own??? Timeless questions the reader considers as he watches one African man's struggle to define himself and his community. A classic that belongs in every person's home library.
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bluedolphin_dancer1, November 13, 2013 (view all comments by bluedolphin_dancer1)
While at first glance, this book appears to be boring, when you delve deeper into the plot, it won't disappoint! The plot weaves two stories together. The story of the hardships and trials of small village life in rural Niger, and the struggle against the missionaries that keeps everyone biting their nails till the last sentence. I originally read it for school, but have started rereading in for pleasure!
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skierunner, February 12, 2012 (view all comments by skierunner)
This book is a must read. It is the response to books such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness that portrays the African tribes as culture-less, ignorant tribes with no sense of language or religion. Achebe does an outstanding job retaining the Ibo (an Nigerian culture) rhythm and style of language and illustrating the complexities of Ibo culture.

The story itself follows a famed warrior, Okonkwo, through his life and the life of his tribe. The first half of the story is pre-contact with European peoples, and the second half is the interaction and response to that contact. I wouldn't exactly say that this book is a 'happy' one, but it is one that will get you thinking, and will help propagate understanding.
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Product Details

Achebe, Chinua
Anchor Books
Prince Frederick, MD
Race relations
Historical fiction
Fiction (fictional works by one author)
Men -- Nigeria -- Fiction.
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
ESL ReadAlong
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.01x5.22x.58 in. .49 lbs.

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Things Fall Apart Used Trade Paper
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Product details 224 pages Anchor Books - English 9780385474542 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Before Things Fall Apart was published in 1958, few novels existed in English that depicted African life from the African perspective. And while the book has paved the way for countless authors since, Chinua Achebe's illuminating work remains a classic of modern African literature. Drawing on the history and customs passed down to him, Achebe tells the tale Okonkwo, a strong-willed member of a late-19th-century Nigerian village. As we follow Okonkwo's story, we get a glimpse of the intricacies of village life and the complex social structures that come into play. We then see the devastating effects of European colonization on the region and on Okonkwo himself, whose rise and fall become intertwined with the changing power dynamics. Things Fall Apart is essential reading for anyone who wants a more nuanced understanding of other ways of life, of culture clashes, of what being civilized really entails.

"Review A Day" by , "When it was published fifty years ago, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart caused a stir for its revelation of something hitherto strange and unfamiliar in the world of literature: genuine African voices. Achebe was not the first African novelist, as he has sometimes wrongly been called, but his use of standard English to produce believable characters who inhabited a complex and authentic world marked two existing traditions of writing about Africa as evolutionary dead ends." (read the entire Nation review)
"Review" by , "This handsome trade paperback honors the 50th anniversary of Things Fall Apart, one of the most widely read and beloved novels of our time. It's a true modern classic." (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
"Review" by , “Achebe is gloriously gifted with the magic of an ebullient, generous, great talent.”
"Review" by , "A vivid imagination illuminates every page....This novel genuinely succeeds in penetrating tribal life from the inside."
"Synopsis" by , Achebe's masterpiece tells the story of Okonkwo, strongman of an Ibo village in Nigeria, as he witnesses the destruction of his culture and the loss of his own place within it.
"Synopsis" by , Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwos fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
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