Things Fall Apart Introduction and Background to African LiteratureNCSCOS English II Goals and Objectives: 5.01, 5.02, 5.03
"The Second Coming" William Butler Yeats“Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe 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 everywhereThe ceremony of innocence is drowned;The best lack all conviction, while the worstAre full of passionate intensity.Surely some revelation is at hand;Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
African Literature• African literature was first recognized around 2300-2100 B.C., when ancient Egyptians begin using burial texts to accompany their dead. These include the first written accounts of creation - the Memphite Declaration of Deities.
African Literature• African literature spawns from their extremely oral culture• Oral culture takes many forms: proverbs and riddles, epic narratives, praise poetry and songs, chants and rituals, stories, legends and folk tales.• This is present in the many proverbs told in Things Fall Apart
African Literature• With the period of Colonization, African oral traditions and written works came under serious threat from outside sources. • Europeans, justifying themselves with the Christian ethics, tried to destroy the "pagan" and "primitive" culture of the Africans, to make them more pliable slaves. However, African Literature survived this concerted attack.
African Literature• 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 http://blog.syracuse.com/shelflife/2007/11/achebe.jpg
• Chinua Achebe is one of themost well-known contemporarywriters from Africa.• Achebe’s first novel, Things FallApart, deals with the clash ofcultures and the violent transitionsin life and values brought about bythe onset of British colonialism inNigeria at the end of the nineteenthcentury.
Chinua Achebe • 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.
Author’s Purpose• One of the main themes running through Things Fall Apart -- and all of Achebe’s work -- is that all knowledge is specific and culturally situated. (Question #1)• What does your map of Africa tell you about your knowledge of the culture we’re about to encounter in this book?
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
What made Achebe’s African literaturetruly 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.
Things Fall Apart • 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. (Question #9, #10)
Background • Things Fall Apart, Africas most important novel to date, is probably the most widely studied African creative work both in Africa and abroad. The novels universal appeal has led to its being translated into more than 50 languages
• Mr. Achebe has published novels, short stories, essays, and childrens books.• He was cited in the London Sunday Times as one of the 1,000 "Makers of the Twentieth Century," for defining "a modern African literature that was truly African" and thereby making "a major contribution to world literature."
• How do you think oral storytelling helps to promote Achebe’s theme that all knowledge is specific and culturally situated? (Question #7)
Drawing of an Ibo Village in the 1800s.
British Colonialism• In the 1850’s, European countries divided up all the land in Africa – the land England acquired became its African colonies.• In the 1850’s, 80% of Africa was still under traditional, local control.• England and other colonial powers like France and Germany divided Africa into 50 countries.
• They superimposed brand new boundaries over the 1,000 indigenous cultures and regions of Africa.• The new countries lacked reason, and divided some groups of people who lived peacefully together, while merging other groups who didn’t get along.
The End of Colonialism• Between 1885 and 1914 Britain took nearly 30% of Africas population under its control, compared to 15% for France, 9% for Germany, 7% for Belgium and 1% for Italy.• Nigeria alone contributed 15 million subjects, more than in the whole of French West Africa or the entire German colonial empire.
• An epic hero, like Odysseus, is typically set apart from other characters by his capacity to endure many trials and tests. A tragic hero, like Oedipus, is typically a man of consequence brought down by an inner conflict, or through his own weakness. Is Okonkwo an epic hero, a tragic hero, or is he a hero at all?
• Do you think we bring some knowledge of Africa to the table?• How is our knowledge of Africa and African history biased? (Question #2)• Are there some stereotypes about Africa and Africans that we unwittingly have? (Question #3)
Background• Things Fall Apart takes place during British colonial rule of Nigeria in the latter part of the 1800s and deals with the Ibo(Igbo) Culture
Your Essay Assignment:(Keep this in mind as you read.)• In musing about the role of the novelist as an educator, acclaimed Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe once wrote: “I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past - with all its imperfections - was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them.”• In your opinion, does Achebe succeed in doing this with his novel Things Fall Apart?• Whether you argue that he does or does not succeed, support your position through reference to at least three specific examples from the novel.
Ibo Culture • To understand the concepts in Things Fall Apart, it is important to know about the Ibo (also called Igbo) culture
Belief System• Igbo beliefs were once very tribal in nature.• Before Christianity belief system revolved around one particular god, named Chukwu• Chukwu was all powerful and omnipresent God and representations, symbols and sanctuaries for him can be found almost anywhere. – Homes, compounds, buildings and even village parks and squares would display these depictions of Chukwu• Also believed in many smaller deities that would compete among themselves• CHI was a god seen as individually personalized by its followers.• The people believed strongly in ones ability to improve status in the present world or afterlife through change.
http://www.artheos.org/images/5476.jpg Egwugwu http://www.literaryworlds.wmich.edu/umuofia/images/mask3.JPG These figures are tutelary deities known as alusi or agbara http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Q_QOyPJQRZE/SMbWx YguxdI/AAAAAAAAABU/3eC7dGsGjvk/s320/elderm eeting.jpg
People and Community http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/content_images/igbo_title.jpghttp://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/jpeg/nigeria008.jpg http://media.photobucket. com/image/igbo %20husband/Feels_Good_2B _Home/igbowedding.jpg
Music • Igbo music is generally lively, upbeat, and spontaneous which creates a variety of sounds that enables the Igbo people to incorporate music into almost all the facets of their daily lives
Ekwe- type of drum http://www.uta.fi/~meemen/ogenet.jpg Oge- type ofhttp://www.motherlandmusic.com/images/nigeria/drums/ekwe.jpg bell
A Tortoise Shell Drum Drums were a very important part of everyday life. They were part of religious ceremonies and rituals.
Yams are a staple crop.http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2236/2369013508_4c786d9af4.jpg?v=0
Ibo Culture Past and Present• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keZ
Works Cited• http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cult ural/oldworld/africa/igbo.html
Village Customs Life in Umuofia was very structured and daily life had many important rituals. There were important traditions for welcomingvisitors, for attaining and respecting social status, for treatment of women, for going to war, getting married, and for settling disputes.
Kola Nut • Kola nut was mixed with alligator pepper and eaten.• This was served as an appetizer as part of the welcoming ritual.
Alligator Pepper • Alligator pepper has a spicy flavor in the seeds. • It was used as a seasoning by mixing it with kola nut.
Boy withKola Nut
Kola Bowl Kola was mixed and served in this type of bowl.When a guest arrived, the host would ask the guest to break the kola nut.They would politely argue about who should serve the kola. Finally, the host would serve it.The guest would draw chalk lines on the floor and paint his big toe white with the chalk.
Religious CeremoniesThe people of Umuofia believed in many gods,ghosts,ancestral spirits, and even believed certain animalsweresacred.They prayed to their ancestors and also had a chi or personal god.They revered the python as the most sacred animaland called a rainbow the python of the sky.
Ceremonial Masks• The egwugwu were the leaders of the community.• The women would be afraid of the egwugwu, even though they knew their men were not present at the ceremonies and had to be the egwugwu.• Evil Forest was the lead egwugwu in Things Fall Apart.
An Elder MeetingThe Egwugwu are in Masks
Boys of the VillageIt was important to include boys in daily rituals.
• They would make communal decisions for the Ibo people such as: – settling property disputes – deciding whether to go to warEgwugwu wearing ceremonial masks
Jaw Mask, Another Formof Ceremonial Mask
Mask and an Ibo Boy in a Mask
Drinking Palm Wine From a Human Skull Was Part of Religious CeremoniesOkonkwo Had Five Skulls to His Credit
Village Life The villagers were warriors, farmers, and craftsmen.The men’s crop was yam, the king of crops.Women’s crops were coco-yams, beans, and cassava.
People and Community • Igbo home life is also very structured. • Typically the husband is the head of the household. He also accepts his responsibilities to his community. • It is of equal importance to tend to both the family and the village. Igbo people usually have very extended families; it is a part of them as a people. Ibo Huts http://img2.travelblog.org/Photos/11183/84066/t/520783-The-hut-0.jpg
An Ibo Building
"Proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten."• Among the Ibo people, the art of conversation is very highly regarded.• At the time the novel takes place (1930s), the Ibo people do not use the written word.• They received their news from the town crier.• A Proverb is a short saying that expresses a common truth or experience. Proverbs are very important to the Ibo people.
Locusts • Locusts are related to grasshoppers. They swarm and can destroy whole fields and crops. • The Umuofians considered them to be a delicacy. • They gathered them in baskets and then roasted them and ate them.
Tattoos on a Sculpture and a Man
Cowry Shells• Cowry shells were used as money in Africa.• They were small enough to carry and were scarce enough to be valuable. • 25 bags of cowry shells were paid as bride price during the engagement ceremony in the novel.
Fishing: One of Many Activities Done as a Community
Dying Indigo and a Craftsman
The MarketAn Important Part of Ibo Social Life
Tailor and Carver
Nigerian Girl • One tribe of people who live in Nigeria call themselves the Ibo people.• Women often carry heavy things on their heads.
Woman on left with similar tattooing
The village practiced polygamy. In other words, the men could have more than one wife.
Okonkwo’s OkonkwoFamily First Ekwefi Ojiugo WifeNwoye Obiageli Son Ezinma Nkechi
Your Essay Assignment: (Keep this in mind as you read.)• In musing about the role of the novelist as an educator, acclaimed Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe once wrote: “I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past - with all its imperfections - was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them.”• In your opinion, does Achebe succeed in doing this with his novel Things Fall Apart?• Whether you argue that he does or does not succeed, support your position through reference to at least three specific examples from the novel.
ConflictsGenerational: Okonkwo vs. Unoka Okonkwo vs. NwoyeCultural Ibo vs. Western Tradition vs. Christianity Assimilation vs. purityGender Okonkwo vs. his wivesInner Okonkwo vs. himself
The Tragic Hero1. enjoys an exalted position in society either by birth or extraordinary achievements2. demonstrates wisdom, moral or philosophical greatness -- sometimes physical prowess3. adheres to and exemplifies a code of conduct including reverence toward the laws of God and the universe, loyalty to the family, and respect for government4. possesses a flaw in personality or psyche that ultimately brings about total destruction.
Tragic Flaw• The quality that ultimately defeats a noble hero.• What was Gatsby’s flaw? Macbeth? Hamlet? Oedipus?• Okonkwo’s flaw: Uncontrollable Anger Inflexibility
• After WWII, England’s sway and power over its colonies around the world was weakened.• England’s empire in Africa ended quickly, often leaving the newly- independent states ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of governing themselves.• Nigeria won independence in 1960, and many other African nations followed shortly thereafter. (Question # 8)
• What types of problems do you thinkthis would create for both England andAfricans? (Question #4)