Things fall apart Study Notes


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Things fall apart Study Notes

  1. 1. Things Fall Apart
  2. 2. The Author & the novel • Achebe is considered one of the earliest and best novelists to have come out of modern Nigeria, in fact one of the top English-speaking novelists of his time anywhere. • Achebe is interested in showing Ibo society in the period of transition when rooted, traditional values are put in conflict with an alien and more powerful culture that will tear them apart • Achebe paints a vivid picture of Ibo society both before and after the arrival of white men, and avoids the temptation to idealize either culture.
  3. 3. Context/Setting • Things Fall Apart is set in the 1890s and portrays the clash between Nigeria’s white colonial government and the traditional culture of the indigenous Igbo people. • Achebe’s novel shatters the stereotypical European portraits of native Africans. He is careful to portray the complex, advanced social institutions and artistic traditions of Igbo culture prior to its contact with Europeans. • Achebe write the novel in English but the text is rich with African words. This allows the reader a closer connection to the people and their life (Social institutions are groups of persons banded together for common purposes)
  4. 4. Oral Tradition • Achebe primarily uses proverbs, songs and folk tales in this novel to illustrate the Igbo tradition. • Songs are sung by people in the village and they have something to do with village traditions of wrestling, marriage, work, and even death. • Many proverbs refer to animals in the bush to make a cultural point. • Achebe also uses proverbs and sayings to describe his characters especially Okonkwo. • E.g. “…looking at a king’s mouth one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breast” (Achebe 26). Okonkwo as being proud as a king but also very self supporting and having a quick rise to fame and fortune. The proverb makes his character so much more vivid and alive than any other literary device.
  5. 5. Context/Setting • Folk tales illustrate the culture of the characters in the novel. • In chapter seven, Okonkwo is described as telling stories to his sons. • He told them stories of the land— masculine stories of violence and bloodshed.
  6. 6. Context/Setting • Achebe's language in this novel is a mixture of English, Ibo proverbs and un-translated words • Proverbs are an important aspect of communication in Ibo culture. They are short sayings that have their roots in folklore and general observations of life, and are typically passed down from generation to generation. • They aid the Ibo in defending their thoughts and opinions, as well as add a certain poetic quality to their speech. • Help us gain a deeper understanding of the values and beliefs of the Ibo people, which are quite different than our own.
  7. 7. Context/Setting • Who are the Igbo people? Where do they live? What is their life like? • Religion, the Igbo system of gods, spirits and humans • Chi – personal god; can be controlled by humans • Social structure and hierarchy of Igbo society – Ti t l e d a n d u n t i t l e d c i t i z e n s – Eg wu g wu – Os u • Polygamy and family structure (compound living within village system) , matriarchal/patriarchal
  8. 8. Context/Setting • System of villages, shared governance, laws. Communication methods (drum, messengers, envoys) • Drums and ogene as metaphors for the ―heart‖ of the people – “The drums were still beating, persistent and unchanging. Their sound was no longer a separate thing from the living village. It was like the pulsation of its heart”
  9. 9. Conflict Okonkwo & Masculinity • Okonkwo’s relationship with his late father shapes much of his violent and ambitious demeanor. • He wants to rise above his father’s legacy of spendthrift, indolent behavior, which he views as weak and therefore effeminate. • the narrator mentions that the word for a man who has not taken any of the expensive, prestige-indicating titles is agbala, which also means ―woman.‖
  10. 10. Conflict • Okonkwo’s idea of manliness is not the clan’s. He associates masculinity with aggression and feels that anger is the only emotion that he should display. • He frequently beats his wives, even threatening to kill them from time to time. We are told that he does not think about things, and we see him act rashly and impetuously. • Obierika, unlike Okonkwo, ―was a man who thought about things.‖ • Whereas Obierika refuses to accompany the men on the trip to kill Ikemefuna, Okonkwo not only volunteers to join the party that will execute his surrogate son but also violently stabs him with his machete simply because he is afraid of appearing weak.
  11. 11. Conflict • Okonkwo feels love for his daughter, Ezinma, and his adopted son, Ikemefuma, but he cannot show it. The only emotion Okonkwo feels a man must show is anger, so he hides his affection for both children. • Okonkwo breaks the Week of Peace by striking and nearly killing his third and youngest wife, Ojiugo. • Achebe describes that “in his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace” (29). This conflict occurs due to Okonkwo’s inability to control this overwhelming emotion.
  12. 12. Conflict • Okonkwo’s anger toward his father, a man who achieved little in his lifetime, dictates his own search for identity. • His actions show that he strives to be the exact opposite of his father, Unoka, in every way. • Where his father was kind and fun-loving, Okonkwo is sullen and hard-working to a fault.
  13. 13. Characterization Okonkwo: Villain, Victim or Tragic Hero?
  14. 14. Okonkwo • Becomes productive, wealthy, thrifty, brave, violent, and adamantly opposed to music and anything else that he perceives to be ―soft,‖ such as conversation and emotion. He is stoic to a fault. • Achieves great social and financial success • Marries three women and fathers several children.
  15. 15. Okonkwo • Although he is a superior character, his tragic flaw—the equation of manliness with rashness, anger, and violence— brings about his own destruction. • Okonkwo is gruff, at times, and usually unable to express his feelings • But we see he has an emotional, caring side which he tries to hide • Okonkwo secretly follows Ekwefi into the forest in pursuit of Ezinma, for example—and thus allows us to see the tender, worried father beneath the seemingly indifferent exterior.
  16. 16. Characterization- Nwoye • Struggles in the shadow of his powerful, successful, and demanding father. • His interests are different from Okonkwo’s and resemble more closely those of Unoka, his grandfather • Ikemefuna, who becomes like an older brother and teaches him a gentler form of successful masculinity • he makes a show of scorning feminine things in order to please his father, he misses his mother’s stories.
  17. 17. Nwoye • With the murder of Ikemefuna, Nwoye retreats into himself and finds himself forever changed. • His reluctance to accept Okonkwo’s masculine values turns into pure embitterment toward him and his ways. When missionaries come to Mbanta, Nwoye’s hope and faith are reawakened, and he eventually joins forces with them. • Although Okonkwo regrets having borne so ―effeminate‖ a son and disowns Nwoye, Nwoye appears to have found peace at last in leaving the oppressive atmosphere of his father’s tyranny.
  18. 18. Characterization- Ezinma • Ezinma, Okonkwo’s favorite daughter and the only child of Ekwefi, is bold in the way that she approaches—and even sometimes contradicts—her father. • Okonkwo remarks to himself multiple times that he wishes she had been born a boy, since he considers her to have such a masculine spirit. • Ezinma alone seems to win Okonkwo’s full attention, affection, and, ironically, respect. She and he are allied spirits, which boosts her confidence. She grows into a beautiful young woman who sensibly agrees to put off marriage until her family returns from exile. • In doing so, she shows an approach similar to that of Okonkwo: she puts strategy ahead of emotion.
  19. 19. Th e En d