Thursday, September 10, 2009

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is the story of Okonkwo, a man of some repute in traditional Igbo society in Nigeria. As the story unfolds, the British colonials come in, introduce Christianity and British government, and begin to influence the culture and ways of the local people. Okonkwo's inability to accept these changes and his desire to follow Igbo tradition strictly eventually lead to his undoing.

The book takes the tribe through many different rituals, explaining each one. It describes reasons for wars between neighboring tribes, tribal government, ways of offending, preparing food, living quarters, arrangements of relationships. (I don't say marriage here because that is not the right term for the arrangements.)

I enjoyed this book, not because it entertained me, but because it taught me a lot about African culture in this part of Africa. I thought it was fascinating to see the clash between traditional African society and the influence of British rule.

[spoiler alert] The final lines sum the clash of these perspectives best when the British Commissioner was pontificating about the book he would write about this region: "The story of this man [Okonkwo] who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading...He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger." With those lines, it is obvious that the British are just as strict about the practice of their own rituals and unaccepting of any change to their own cultural perspective.

My copy has front notes about the author and the history of African literature which I have yet to read. I'm sure that will offer more information and insight into the novel.

7 comments:

Amanda said...

I didn't read through your spoiler part. I'm really looking forward to this book. I think my book club will be reading it next year.

Trixie said...

It's basically the last lines of the book. I wouldn't read the spoiler if you are planning to read the book and don't want to know how it ends!

hamilcar barca said...

i always wonder how Africa would have turned out if the European powers hadn't felt compelled to colonize and impose their value systems on the people there. i think it's been demonstrated that the concept of democracy frankly doesn't work well in Africa.

Trixie said...

What an interesting idea to pursue as an alternative history novel. What would Africa be like if it had not been colonized by the Europeans? I need to work on my regular African history before I pursue alternative history though!

Rebecca Reid said...

I remember loving this book when I read it in 12th grade, for similar reasons I think. I was completely ignorant of Africa, and this really opened my eyes. Plus, it was powerfully written.

PS. this would be a great post to submit to the upcoming bookworms carnival about books about or set in Africa! details here: bookwormscarnival.wordpress.com

Trixie said...

Oooo...thanks Rebecca. I have not been paying attention to such things. Will check into it.

Diane said...

I just picked this one up at a book sale. Can't wait to read it; great review (i skipped the spoiler).