The story of Okonkwo, an important man in the Obi tribe, in the days when white men were first appearing on the scene. This novel tells of the series of events by which Okonkwo, through his pride and his fears, becomes exiled from the tribe.
Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.And yet Achebe manages to make this cruel man deeply sympathetic. He is fond of his eldest daughter, and also of Ikemefuna, a young boy sent from another village as compensation for the wrongful death of a young woman from Umuofia. He even begins to feel pride in his eldest son, in whom he has too often seen his own father. Unfortunately, a series of tragic events tests the mettle of this strong man, and it is his fear of weakness that ultimately undoes him.
Achebe does not introduce the theme of colonialism until the last 50 pages or so. By then, Okonkwo has lost everything and been driven into exile. And yet, within the traditions of his culture, he still has hope of redemption. The arrival of missionaries in Umuofia, however, followed by representatives of the colonial government, completely disrupts Ibo culture, and in the chasm between old ways and new, Okonkwo is lost forever. Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
This Heinemann edition adds little to the text. The so-called glossary explains to you that a harmattan is "a cold, dry wind that blows from the North," even though the text reads that a "cold and dry harmattan wind was blowing down from the north." Gee, that's a helpful gloss, not to mention the poor editing that capitalizes the N in the glossary but not in the text. Much more valuable than useless definitions such as these would have been a guide to pronunciation and the meanings of the names, such as those provided in Austin Shelton's Modern Language Quarterly essay, "The 'Palm-Oil' of Language: Proverbs in Chinua Achebe's Novels."
The Suggestions for Further Reading includes only one reference to criticism, C. L. Innes' and Bernth Lindors' "Critical Perspectives on Chinua Achebe.Read more ›