Editor:Guilherme Heinemann Ltd.
Gender:Historical Fiction, Classical, African Literature
Main characters:Okonkwo, Ikemefuna, Ezinma, Nwoye
AND:Tradition versus change, fate versus free will, masculinity, religion
Attitude:Pre-colonial Nigeria, 1890s
Box:third person omniscient
Book Summary: Everything Falls Apart by Chinua Achebe
Okonkwo is the greatest fighter and warrior in the world, and his fame spreads across West Africa like fire through harmattan. But when he accidentally kills a Clansman, things start to fall apart. Okonkwo then returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors who have come to the city. When her world is thrown out of balance, she can only plunge headlong into tragedy.
Chinua Achebe's sober, coldly ironic novel, first published in 1958, transformed African and world literature, selling over ten million copies in 45 languages. This compelling parable of a proud but powerless man witnessing the downfall of his people begins Achebe's seminal trilogy of works, chronicling the fate of an African community and continuing through God's Arrow and We Are Not Anymore.
Book Review: Everything Falls Apart by Chinua Achebe
Everything Falls Apart is the kind of book that makes reading so enjoyable. Not only did she have a compelling story to tell, but she also had a great deal of hidden meaning in her writing, which gave me plenty of reasons to come back to this book long after I'd finished it. This is an insightful novel that makes you ponder a wide variety of topics and morals while entertaining and engaging readers with its characters and setting. Chinua Achebes Things Fall Apart is one of those books that I will constantly remember and reflect on for years to come, as it was of such high quality both on a narrative level and in terms of rich subtext.
“The white man is very intelligent. He came calmly and peacefully with his religion. We laughed at his stupidity and allowed him to stay. Now he has conquered our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like it. He stuck a knife in the things that held us together and we broke apart.
Everything Falls Apart tells two simultaneous stories that intersect and balance each other throughout the novel. A focal point of the novel is the protagonist Okonkwo, a fierce warrior who represents traditional African culture. The other focus is on the Umuofia tribe of Okonkwo, which experiences a drastic change in all walks of life when European missionaries come into play. The sharp ideological divide between Okonkwo and Umuofia becomes the focus of the story and leads to some highly controversial moments in the book.
What do you do when your house turns against you, when you abandon your deeply held beliefs and values?
What are you supposed to do when you're powerless to stop a seemingly unstoppable force from ravaging your very core?
Such are the conflicts in Things Fall Apart, seen through Okonkwo's battle against his ever-changing tribe in the midst of a European takeover. What follows is a fun but moving story that is hard to forget.
“Age was respected among your people, but conquest was revered. As the old people said, if a child washed his hands, he could eat with kings.
Okonkwo's story was excellent. I felt a strong connection with this character throughout the read, always curious to see what would happen next on his journey or where he would end up. Of course, Okonkwo may not be the most likable character in literature, and you wouldn't necessarily be wrong if you judged him to be a bad person either. He does some pretty bad things in the novel, but context is everything, and while he may have done something bad by conventional standards, he did it with good intentions, however deceitful they may be.
In my opinion, Okonkwo is a tragic hero whose actions are in the best interests of his family and tribe, never for selfish or vain reasons that would normally lead to an evil or unpleasant character. He has major flaws, but also a lot of tragic characters from literature, which makes them all the more interesting to follow. Furthermore, his mistakes were fully identifiable and forgivable, as everything that happened to Okonkwo was the result of circumstances beyond his control. Okonkwo was one of the strongest, best developed andfascinating literary figuresI found.
"The world has no end, and what is good for some is anathema for others."
What's brilliant about Everything Falls Apart is how objective it is, maintaining an intimate feel throughout the novel. In other words, Chinua Achebe was able to shed light on the culture of missionaries as well as Africans, showing their strengths and weaknesses, while also drawing the reader into a very personal story about a tribesman's struggle to meet this new imposed way of organizing life. .
Achebe never portrayed Umuofia and its people as the "good guys" or the innocent and helpless victims of colonialism. Likewise, he never turned European missionaries into ruthless "bandits" just trying to cause harm and pain to Africans. Instead, Achebe balanced these two sides, showing that nothing is ever black and white and that complexity is everywhere and cannot be stereotyped or cruelly assumed. That's the magic behind Things Fall Apart: that it's able to be many things to many people, while maintaining an objective ambiguity, leaving interpretation up to the readers, rather than having its meaning shamelessly shoved down our throats. This diversity of perspectives and opinions makes books like Things Fall Apart worthwhile reading.
"Eneke, the bird, says that man has learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without landing."
Another aspect that made Things Fall Apart great was its historical and cultural significance in the field of literature. Although the novel's events were purely fictional, they resembled real events taking place in Africa at a time when the British were colonizing the world. This novel has provided many readers, like myself, with an accessible way to learn about the rape of these African cultures and their subsequent assimilation by the British. Previously, at the turn of the 20th century, he was not very knowledgeable about African affairs, nor was he fully aware of European intentions to colonize new lands.
However, after reading Everything Falls Apart, I learned a lot about the history and culture of African people and their struggles, as well as the missionaries' motivations. While I wouldn't recommend this book as a replacement for a book on the subject, I can say that it does provide a great historical background that would satisfy those wanting to delve deeper into African literary studies.
This is a relatively short novel and its chapters go by so quickly that you'll finish it in no time, which is perhaps the only negative thing I can say about this book. While it was a short read, its impact was far from fleeting with a memorable story and a wealth of subtext to long cherish.