Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart Book Review

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a novel set in a pre-colonial fictional town called Umuofia (Nigeria). He mostly centres the novel around Okonkwo, the strongest and most renowned man in the village.

TFA is set during the late 19th century and Achebe uses vivid and poetic storytelling to capture the daily activities and events of the village. Written in third-person narrative, Achebe paints vibrant images of the villages’ culture, religion and traditions. From yam farms to palm wine clan meetings, the first half of TFA explores Okonkwo’s family life. Achebe accepts Umuofia as it is with rich traditions and he refrains from creating a perfect tapestry. Umuofia has its fair share of terrible farming seasons and a questionable mentality towards women. Deeply entrenched ideas of masculinity are problematic too. However, the author presents these attitudes as innate and a product of its time

Achebe presents the characters in a descriptive style. I learned so much about Okonkwo. To the village people, he is a brave and powerful man who incites fear. He is a traditional presentation of Igbo masculinity within the novel. However,  internally, he is more sensitive, vulnerable and loving than he realises. This hero is more akin to his father, someone who he hates. Okonkwo is a complex  and multifaceted character who struggles to understand what it means to be a man, and he is a product of his own ambitions. Sometimes, I sympathised with him. However, there were times when I couldn’t agree with or understand him. I had some ambivalence towards this character.

This literary masterpiece has other memorable characters. Nwoye is Okonkwo’s son , and represents an alternative masculinity. He prefers listening to his mother’s stories. Okonkwo’s favourite daughter Ezinma does not conform to conventional femininity in the culture. Ikemefuna’s father kills a woman. As a result, Ikemefuna is forced to live with Okonkwo and becomes part of the family. He is the ideal type of son.

Achebe creates a West-African village with all its fractured beauty. Through the arrival of  European missionaries, he shows how they transform Umuofia into a colony. A church and western ideas appear, rendering Umuofia a mere shadow of its former self. Everything that made this village distinct is stripped away, and Achebe explores this truth with frankness and unmasked emotion.

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