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Things fall apart summary

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  • 1. Things fall apart Chinua aChebe
  • 2. ● The Second Coming" William Butler Yeats “Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
  • 3. Chinua Achebe  Chinua Achebe presents native African culture in his stunning work, Things Fall Apart. This is probably the most read work of African Literature ever written, and it provides a deep level of cultural detail
  • 4. • Chinua Achebe is one of the most well- known contemporary writers from Africa. • Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, deals with the clash of cultures and the violent transitions in life and values brought about by the onset of British colonialism in Nigeria at the end of the nineteenth century.
  • 5.  born in Nigeria in 1930. He was raised in the large village of Ogidi, one of the first centers of Anglican missionary work in Eastern Nigeria. (Question #5)  He is a graduate of University College, Ibadan.  From 1972 to 1976, and again in 1987 to 1988, Mr. Achebe was a Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and also for one year at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.
  • 6. Author’s Purpose “Let me first make one general point that is fundamental and essential to the appreciation of African issues by Americans. Africans are people in the same way that Americans, Europeans, Asians, and others are people. Africans are not some strange beings with unpronounceable names and impenetrable minds. Although the action of Things Fall Apart takes place in a setting with which most Americans are unfamiliar, the characters are normal people and their events are real human events.” Chinua Achebe
  • 7. What made Achebe’s African literature truly African?  Things Fall Apart combines Western linguistic forms and literary traditions with Igbo (or Ibo) words and phrases, proverbs, fables, tales, and other elements of African oral and communal storytelling traditions. (Question #6)  This helps record and preserve African oral traditions as well as to overcome the colonialist language and culture.
  • 8. Background  Published in 1958, just before Nigerian independence, the novel recounts the life of the village hero Okonkwo and describes the arrival of white missionaries in Nigeria and its impact on traditional Igbo society during the late 1800s
  • 9. Chinua Achebe  “Let me first make one general point that is fundamental and essential to the appreciation of African issues by Americans. Africans are people in the same way that Americans, Europeans, Asians, and others are people. Africans are not some strange beings with unpronounceable names and impenetrable minds. Although the action of Things Fall Apart takes place in a setting with which most Americans are unfamiliar, the characters are normal people and their events are real human events.”
  • 10. Chapter 1  9 connected villages, including Okonkwo’s village, Iguedo  Okonkwo is a wealthy and respected warrior of the Umuofia clan  Okonkwo won honor in his youth; he beat “Amalinze the Cat” in a wrestling match  Unoka was his father, a “weak” man who always borrowed money and couldn’t pay his debts  Unoka’s laziness meant his wife and children often went hungry  Unoka was a skilled flute player and eloquent (skilled, excellent) speaker
  • 11. Chapter 2  Town crier rings the ogene (gong) to let clansmen know they should gather in the market in the morning  Orator (good speaker) Ogbuefi Ezeugo announces the murder of a woman in the market of neighboring village (Mbaino)  Anger, indignation. As the fiercest warrior, Okonkwo chosen to deliver message to Mbaino; they must hand over a virgin and a young man or go to war  Umuofia has reputation for fierce warriors, powerful magic  Okonkwo has taken five human heads in past battles. He drinks palm-wine from his first head on important occasions.  Mbaino agrees to Umuofia’s terms  The boy, Ikemefuna, goes to Okonkwo for safekeeping  Okonkwo instructs his first wife to care for Ikemefuna
  • 12. Chapter 3  Unoka never had successful harvest, numerous debts unpaid, couldn’t afford titles. Lazy, Ill-fated, died of a shameful illness, “swelling which was an abomination to the earth goddess.”  Unoka left in the Evil Forest to die (so as not to offend earth by being buried)  Okonkwo builds fortune alone; starts as a sharecropper – becomes a warrior, farmer, and family provider  His start: Nwakibie gives him 800 seed yams to start a farm (when Okonkwo only asked for 400  Unoka’s friend gives him another 400, but horrible droughts and rains destroy majority of harvest  Harvest left profound mark on Okonkwo; considers this proof of his fortitude/inner mettle (strength)  Okonkwo feels only disgust for father’s reliance on words(need to speak); he uses either action or silence
  • 13. Chapter 4  At first, Ikemefuna is homesick and scared, but soon becomes part of the family (tells stories; an older brother to Nwoye, calls Okwonkwo “father”)  Okonkwo grows fond of Ikemefuna, but does not show affection (believes it is sign of weakness)  During the Week of Peace, Okonkwo beats his youngest wife, Ojiugo, after she leaves her hut to have her hair braided without first cooking dinner  Because of nso-ani (transgression/breaking tradition), priest demands sacrifice of nanny goat and hen, plus a fine  Okonkwo repents (says he is sorry), follows the priest’s orders. Ogbuefi Ezeudu: “The punishment for breaking the Peace of Ani has become mild in Umuofia.”  After Week of Peace, villagers begin to clear land, prepare for planting farms.  Nwoye and Ikemefuna help Okonkwo prepare the seed yams, but he finds fault with their work (even though he knows that they are too young to understand farming)
  • 14. Chapter 5  Just before harvest, village holds “Feast of the New Yam” to thank the earth goddess, Ani  Okonkwo considers feasts times of idleness  Women scrub and decorate huts, throw away unused yams, and decoratively paint their skin and their children’s with cam wood  After beating second wife, Ekwefi, he wants to go hunting. Ekwefi mutters remark about “guns that never shot,” and Okonkwo shoots at her (but misses)  Okonkwo won Ekwefi’s love (she ran away from her husband to be with him) by defeating the Cat, so she especially enjoys the annual wrestling contest the day after the feast  In turn, Okonkwo’s daughters bring a bowl of food to Okonkwo’s hut
  • 15. Chapter 6  With excited spectators, the wrestling match takes place on the village ilo (a field)  Maduka (son of Okonkwo’s friend Obierika) wins one match within seconds.  Ekwefi speaks with Chielo, who takes the role of the priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves  At the match, they speak as friends; Chielo inquires about Ezinma, whom she calls “my daughter”  They conclude that Ezinma seems to have “come to stay” (she has reached the age of ten and is unlikely to die).
  • 16. Chapter 7 Ikemefuna has been with the family for three years, having “kindled a new fire” in Nwoye (becomes more masculine, which pleases Okonkwo)  Okonkwo frequently invites the two boys to listen to warrior stories in his obi (Nwoye misses his mother’s stories, but says he dislikes women’s concerns to please his father)  Locusts descend upon Umuofia (happens once in a generation; come every year for 7 years before disappearing for another lifetime)  Villagers happy – they collect and eat them  Ogbuefi Ezeudu visits to inform Okonkwo of the Oracle’s decree. He tells Okonkwo not to take part Ikemefuna’s death, as the boy calls him “father”  Okonkwo lies to Ikemefuna, telling him that he will be returning to his home village; Nwoye bursts into tears  The men of Umuofia walk for hours with Ikemefuna, who thinks about seeing his mother.  When attacked, Ikemefuna cries to Okonkwo for help. Okonkwo doesn’t wish to look weak, so he kills him with machete  Nwoye understands Ikemefuna is dead and is very upset
  • 17. Chapter 8  Okonkwo in depression, feels weak, cannot sleep or eat; berates (thinks poorly of) himself for acting like a “shivering old woman.”  Ezinma tells him he must eat; brings him his evening meal (Okonkwo repeatedly wishes that she were a boy)  He visits Obierika and congratulates Maduka for wrestling; complains his sons are not manly enough, while Ezinma has “the right spirit”  He argues with Obierika about taking part in Ikemefuna’s death  Okonkwo begins to feel revived; news of the death of oldest man in a neighboring village and wife’s death shortly after. Okonkwo questions the man’s reputed (reputation of) strength once he learns how the man seemed attached to his wife  Obierika requests that Okonkwo stay for daughter’s fiancé to determine bride- price. Afterward, they all talk about differing customs in villages (tapping palm trees for palm-wine, white-skinned people)  Foreshadowing: someone speaks of Amadi, a leper. He passes through village frequently; those who know Amadi laugh (polite term for leprosy is “the white skin”)
  • 18. Chapter 9  Ekwefi awakes Okonkwo very early in the morning (believes Ezinma - the “center of her world” - is dying).  Ekwefi is very lenient with Ezinma (Ezinma calls her by her first name; relationship approaches equality) because Ekwefi had 9 miscarriages  Okonkwo knows it is just fever; collects medicine  Ekwefi’s previous births had symbolic names - “Onwumbiko/Death, I implore you” and “Ozoemena/May it not happen again”  Medicine man warned an ogbanje (“wicked” child who continually re-enters its mother’s womb only to die again and again)  So he mutilated the dead body of Ekwefi’s third child to discourage ogbanje’s return  Ezinma suffered many illnesses after birth, but recovered  When Ezinma was 9, a medicine man found her iyi-uwa (small, buried pebble - ogbanje’s physical link to the spirit world)  Ezinma every illness still brings terror and anxiety to Ekwefi
  • 19. Chapter 10  Village holds a ceremonial gathering (a court)  Clan’s ancestral spirits – egwugwu - emerge (come out) from a secret house (no woman allowed inside)  Egwugwu - masked men, including Okonkwo  Women and children are afraid even though they understand men are playing the role of the spirits  First dispute - Uzowulu says his wife’s 3 brothers beat him and took her and the children, refused to return bride-price. Mgbafo’s brothers say the husband beats their sister mercilessly (caused her to miscarry once). Brothers threaten Uzowulu - will cut his genitals off if he ever beats her again  Egwugwu decide Uzowulu must beg for Mgbafo to return  One village elder complains that such a trifling (unimportant, insignificant) matter should not be brought to egwugwu
  • 20. Chapter 11  Ekwefi’s story: greedy, cunning tortoise and the birds invited to a feast in the sky (Tortoise persuades them to take new names for the feast according to custom; his name will be “All of you”)  Chielo, in her role as priestess, informs Ekwefi that Agbala wishes to see Ezinma  Frightened, Okonkwo and Ekwefi try to persuade Chielo to wait until morning  Chielo angrily takes Ezinma on her back and forbids anyone to follow  Ekwefi overcomes fear of divine punishment – follows Chielo, making rounds of the 9 villages  Ekwefi determined to save Ezinma at cave if needed—even against a god  Okonkwo startles her when he arrives at the cave with a machete  They sit together; she recalls running away from her first husband
  • 21. Chapter 12  At dawn, Chielo exits cave shrine with Ezinma on her back  She silently takes Ezinma to Ekwefi’s hut and puts her to bed  Okonkwo had been worried about Ezinma, but did not show it – he had made four trips to and from the cave. By the last trip, he was “gravely worried”  Okonkwo’s family begins to prepare for Obierika’s daughter’s uri (wedding ceremony)  Villagers contribute food; Obierika buys huge goat to present to future in-laws  Brief interruption – women must retrieve escaped cow; cow’s owner pays a fine  Fiancé's family arrive – generously giving fifty pots of wine  The feast is a success.
  • 22. Chapter 13  Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s death is announced using ekwe (musical instrument), making Okonkwo shudder  Their last visit had been the warning not to take part in Ikemefuna’s death  Ezeudu had been great warrior (3 of 4 titles); his funeral is large and elaborate  There are beating drums and firing of guns  Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeudu’s 16-yr-old son  Killing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess; Okonkwo must take his family into exile for 7 years  They go to Okonkwo’s mother’s village, Mbanta  According to tradition, the men burn Okonkwo’s buildings and kill his animals to cleanse the village  Obierika asks why a man should suffer greatly for an accidental killing; also mourns the deaths of his twins, whom his wife was forced to throw away (wonders what crime they committed)
  • 23. CHAPTER 14  Uchendu (uncle of Okonkwo) and kinsmen give a warm reception - building a compound and lending yam seeds.  Farming season arrives. Okonkwo works hard, but with less enthusiasm. He has toiled all his life, but now his dream “to become one of the lords of the clan” is not possible.  Uchendu perceives Okonkwo’s disappointment; he waits to speak until after his son’s wedding.  Next day, Uchendu gathers entire family. Speaks about most common names - Nneka, meaning “Mother is Supreme.”  “A man belongs to his fatherland and stays there when life is good, but he seeks refuge in his motherland when life is bitter and harsh.”  Uchendu advises Okonkwo to receive the comfort of the motherland gratefully.  Uchendu lost all but one of his six wives and buried twenty-two children. Even so, he says, “I did not hang myself, and I am still alive.”
  • 24. Chapter 15 ● Two years pass since Okonkwo and his family first move to Mbanta ● Obierika comes to visit Okonkwo with two other men and brings 3 bags full of money which he got by selling Okonkwo’s Yams/seeds. ● Obierika meets Uchendu. ● The three talk about the village Abame, and how the white men came in and shot almost all of the villagers at the market.
  • 25. Chapter 16 It’s been 3 years since Okonkwo’s exile Obierika returns to Mbanta from visiting Okonkwo There are 6 missionaries Nwoye encounters and they speak to the village  *persuade acceptance of 1 god Okonkwo thinks missionaries are unorthodox but Nwoye is intrigued by their ideas
  • 26. Chapter 17 • Missionaries request a piece of land to build a church • Village leaders and elders offer them a plot in the evil forest (thinking they won’t accept it) • Missionaries accept offer but elders think the forest’s sinister spirits and forces will kill the missionaries within days (nothing ends up happening) • Okonkwo’s cousin informs Okonkwo that Nwoye is among the Christians • Okonkwo chokes Nwoye when he returns demanding to know where he had been • Nwoye leaves and travels to a school in Umuofia to learn how to read and write
  • 27. CHAPTER 18  Church wins many converts from the efulefu (titleless, worthless men). Then osu (outcasts) come to church and other converts do not want them there.  Mr. Kiaga firmly argues that they will not die if they cut their hair or break any of the other taboos.  His steadfast conviction persuades most of the other converts not to reject their new faith.  Osu soon become most zealous members of the church.  One boasts that he killed the sacred royal python.  Okonkwo urges Mbanta to drive the Christians out with violence, but rulers & elders decide to ostracize them instead. Okonkwo: this is a “womanly” clan.  Later, elders learn - man who boasted of killing the snake has died of an illness. Villagers’ trust in gods is reaffirmed. They cease to ostracize the converts.
  • 28. Chapter 19  This was Okonkwo’s last harvest in Mbanta  He sent Obierika money to build him 2 huts in his old compound  They had a harvest thanking Okonkwo’s mother’s kinsmen
  • 29. Chapter 20  From the beginning of his exile, Okonkwo has planned how to rebuild his compound.  He wants it to be larger, to take two more wives and get titles for his sons. He thinks less of Nwoye’s disgraceful departure, but still regrets that Ezinma is a girl.  Okonkwo gets his daughters to postpone marrying so that he may attract interest when he returns to Umuofia.  However, Umuofia is very different. The church has grown. The white men subject the villagers to their judicial system and rules of government.  Okonkwo cannot believe that his clan has not driven out the harsh, arrogant, white men and their church.
  • 30.  Obierika explains that it is too late; the church has weakened the ties of kinship.  Okonkwo observes that the white man is shrewd; he came in peace, appeared to have benevolent interests so the Africans would permit him to stay.
  • 31. Chapter 21  Umuofia is divided over the white men’s influence in the community. The benefit: trading posts. Money is flowing into the village.  Mr. Brown, the white missionary, restrains Christians from harassing the clan. Akunna, one of the clan’s leaders, explains that the clan also has just one god, Chukwu, who created the world and the other gods.  Cultural Exchange: Mr. Brown - there are no other gods; a carving is not a god, but a piece of wood. Akunna – agrees it is a piece of wood, but wood created by Chukwu. Neither will convert, but gain a greater understanding of the other’s faith.  Mr. Brown builds a hospital, a school. Threat: if children don’t go to school, strangers who can read and write will rule over them.  Mr. Brown tells Okonkwo that Nwoye is in a training college for teachers. Soon after, his health declines. He leaves Umuofia.
  • 32.  Daughters attract many suitors, but clan has little interest in his return. Ozo initiation ceremony occurs only once every 3 years.  Okonkwo is baffled and upset by changes in his once warlike people.
  • 33. Chapter 22  Reverend James Smith replaces Mr. Brown. Strict, intolerant, demands obedience to the letter of the Bible. Disapproves of Mr. Brown’s former policies.  Zealous converts are relieved to be free of restraints. Enoch unmasks an egwugwu during the annual ceremony to honor the earth deity (equivalent to killing an ancestral spirit). The next day, the egwugwu burn Enoch’s compound to the ground.  They gather in front of the church to confront Reverend Smith. They tell the Christians that they wish to destroy the church to cleanse their village of Enoch’s horrible sin.  Smith stands his ground, forbidding them to touch the church. His interpreter alters statements for fear they are too harsh, will provoke great anger. (Says that Smith demands that they leave).
  • 34. Chapter 23  Okonkwo is almost happy because of taking action, even though the clan did not agree to kill the Christians or drive them away.  Villagers are on guard, arm themselves for next two days.  District Commissioner returns from his tour, requests a meeting with the leaders of Umuofia. They go, taking only machetes (guns would be “unseemly”).  Commissioner is condescending, says they should discuss the church’s burning “as friends.” As soon as machetes are on the floor, soldiers handcuff them and throw them in jail.  They suffer insults and physical abuse. Bail is set at 200 bags of cowries. Court messengers ask for 250 to prevent leaders from hanging – to make a profit.
  • 35.  An emergency village meeting. Ezinma returns home from 28-day visit to future in-lawsThey decide to collect the cowries necessary to pay the fine.
  • 36. Chapter 24  Umuofia leaders return to the village upset. Entire village overcome with tense and unnatural silence.  Ezinma takes Okonkwo some food. She and Obierika notice whip marks on his back.  Village crier announces another meeting. Following morning, clan is filled with sense of foreboding. Okonkwo has slept very little out of excitement and anticipation. Meeting is packed with people from 9 villages.  Okonkwo believes that the nature of man has changed. He has decided on a course of action, no matter what others think. Takes out war dress. Assesses raffia skirt, feather headgear, shield. Remembers former glories.  First speaker: laments the damage that white man and his church have done to the clan, the desecration of the gods / ancestral spirits.
  • 37.  5 court messengers approach, ordering the meeting to end. Okonkwo kills the leader with his machete. Villagers allow messengers to escape, end the meeting.
  • 38. Chapter 25  District Commissioner arrives at Okonkwo’s compound. A small group of men sit outside, who tell him that Okonkwo is not at home. Commissioner asks again, and Obierika repeats his initial answer.  Commissioner gets angry, threatens to imprison them. Obierika agrees to lead him to Okonkwo in return for assistance. Not understanding this agreement, Commissioner follows Obierika and a group of clansmen to a small bush behind Okonkwo’s compound. There, Okonkwo’s body dangles from a tree.  Understanding that Umuofia would not go to war and disappointed with his clan, he has hanged himself.  Obierika explains that suicide is a grave sin. Commissioner asks why they cannot take down the body, and they explain that it is now evil. Only strangers may touch it; only strangers may bury it.  Angrily, Obierika blames him for Okonkwo’s death, praises his friend’s greatness. Commissioner leaves, but orders his messengers to do the work.
  • 39.  As he departs, he congratulates himself for increasing his knowledge of African customs.
  • 40.  Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart