Things Fall Apart
- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 01 November 2001
- Modern & Contemporary
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This is a very good book. I've always wanted to read it but did not get the chance or time to do so until last summer, 2006. The author notes the decay of the protagonist's culture (a culture that is African) with the forced introduction of foreign (European) thoughts and ways of life. However, the original culture by itself, Achebe leads us to understand, was not pristine to begin with but is worsen by foreign elements. Politics, religion, relationships between the sexes, are all touched upon in this very well written and informative work.
A novel about West Africa and about the corrosive effects of colonialism, but above all a novel about the decline and fall of one man, Okonkwo. A classic story of a young man with a feckless father who makes something of his life by force of will and hard work, and yet his impatience and obsessive drive is also his downfall.The book is entirely non-polemical, a cool description of parallel destructions: a man and an entire civilisation. Not only that, but also a fascinating and detailed look at Igbo society, and all in one hundred and fifty pages. If I hadn't also read <i>God of Small Things</i> this month this would have been my favourite read of 2007.
I read this a decade ago in the summer between 9th and 10th grades--and loved it then. Now I'm re-reading it and have to give Achebe credit for a powerful, if flawed, testament to native cultures in the pre-colonial world.Now the first and most obvious thing to say is that in the real world, might equals right, and, despite any ideals to the contrary, we live in a real world and not an ideal one. On that note it is not at all difficult to see why, given this depiction of African civilizaiton, Europeans would view Africans as savages. Nor is it difficult to trace remnants of the depiction to the present, removed from its initial setting--the daughter who sways from side to side, breaks the pot, laughs about it, gets near home, and puts on a scene of crying hysterically to avoid consequences and gain sympathy from those who only hear the story, and the step-brother who knows the story and covers it up, complicit in his step-sister's brattishness.At the same time, however, there is an element of manliness and self-reliance in Okonkwo which is sorely lacking, and which the "civilizing mission" of Europeans has done much to destroy not only in the colonial world but in its own world and its offshoot, the United States, as well. And given the ubiquity of this patronizing influence, the message of Achebe--that self-reliance is helpless against a gang of ruthless and probably unethical men who wish to take it away from you--is important and universal.
Well, this is as good as I remembered. Tight, gripping story and great characterization. Okonkwo is a terrific protagonist.<br/><br/>Definitely seems like it's the beginning of a larger story (which, of course, it is); I'm looking forward to reading the other two books of the trilogy.<br/><br/>A friend said he remembered a vague uneasiness about "whether the change was "bad," "good" or just "different." [He] really was rooting for the children of Okonkwo and they seemed to have better prospects with the change." That's a fairly interesting question to bring up, and one I kept in mind as I was reading.<br/><br/>And sure enough, not all of the old ways are totally great. Okonkwo's friend Obierika "remembered his wife's twin children, whom he had thrown away. What crime had they committed? The Earth had decreed that they were an offence on the land and must be destroyed...As the elders said, if one finger brought oil it soiled the others." (60%) It's not easy to justify double infanticide, and Achebe doesn't try.<br/><br/>But<blockquote>The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart."</blockquote> This is, obviously, where the book gets its title, and I think the message is clear in the end: it's not that Africans were doing everything perfectly, it's that white interference certainly wasn't what was called for.<br/><br/>Again, though, I assume the next two books will explore the consequences of the white arrival in more depth - it's just started at the end of <i>Things Fall Apart</i> - and I look forward to reading more.<br/><br/>Anyway...this book is terrific.
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