“Things Fall Apart” Student Reviews 2009

The following reviews by COHS students are on “Things Fall Apart” by  Chinua Achebe
Genre: Classic African Novel
Pages: 181
Reviewer: Raven W.

This novel is about a man named Okonkwo, who strived to be better than his poor, undependable  father, Unoka. From early in his life he knew that he was going to be a great man; he was the best fighter in his village and had the respect of all of the people. Later he married three wives and had children with each of them, but Okonkwo was never satisfied because he felt that his son, Nwoye acted too much like a woman; the only child he accepted was his daughter Ezinma, but she also saddened him because she was not a boy. Okonkwo was banished from his village for seven years because he committed a murder. After the seven year period was over and he returned home he noticed that his village was completely different, he was no longer seen as the great man that everyone respected but as just another person. The changes that took place within his village are what eventually led him to suicide.

I thought that this was a very well written Novel. I was able to understand what the author was trying to explain, and it kept my interest. I enjoyed the fact that this novel realistically explains the way some people can react when placed in an uncomfortable position.

1. The author wrote this book to explain to the reader about Ibo life, their beliefs and traditions through the life of an Ibo man named Okonkwo.
2. State the theme and the thesis of the book. The novel has a religious theme. The thesis of this novel is ones difficulty to adjust to another person’s way of thinking/living.
3. The author supports his Thesis through the character Okonkwo, who spent his whole life trying to gain the respect of everyone. Okonkwo was so focused on being great that he neglected his family because he thought that that would make him seem “womanish”. Later in the novel Christians come to try and convert the Ibo people, but Okonkwo refused to participate in that worship and he thought that those who did were beneath him. He was never able to adjust to the new way of life (Christianity), and therefore he felt that he had to kill himself to escape the frustration.
4. The main issue in this book is ones ability to adjust to someone else’s way of thinking and being able to have enough courage to be yourself and not worry about what others think of you. This was the main struggles for Okonkwo, this issue was not solved until the end of the novel when he committed suicide.

Reviewer: Bianca N.

Okonkwo is known amongst all villages as the “Roaring fire” a nickname fit for him based on his undeniable strength at war. He was a wealthy man he had achieved great things in his village thus, he was respected by the young and the old. He had three wives, all of which bore children. Okonkwo never showed his weakness to his family, for fear that he would become like his father lazy and worthless. One day during a ceremony, Okonkwo was wielding a gun when, it accidentally fired and shot one of his kinsmen. This was taboo in his clan, thus Okonkwo and his family were banished for seven years. They retreated to his mother’s land where he was greeted by his relatives who helped him in this time. Soon, White men began to appear in villages one by one until they reached the village that Okonkwo had resided in. They began to build churches and they held days to attend church during the week. The villagers laughed at their customs and their belief in only one god that they believed ruled and was the almighty.

I Absolutely LOVED this book, it helped me to better understand my culture, it taught me Igbo (Ibo) words that I didn’t already know, and proverbs that without their existence in the book I probably wouldn’t have understood the book as much. I felt that I could connect with it, it was like I was listening to my grandfather tell stories about his youth in Africa. I went back and forth from my room to my father to help interpret the African words for me. It was interesting; I learned a lot of new things.   🙂

1. The author’s purpose in writing this book is to explain how a tribe so attached to their tradition could so abruptly fall apart when white people bring Christianity to Africa.

2. The theme of this book is the corruption of a new faith or the struggle between two customs.

3. The author develops the thesis by starting the story with how the people were at peace and how they treated and performed their customs, then he starts to bring out the talk of strangers appearing in a village and how they came like bees, one would come so as to observe and report back to the rest, and then the pack would arrive later. With this he now introduced the white men as ominous beings upon their land.

4.  The main issue that the book raises is the importance of is obeying one god or chi. The stance that it takes to address this issue is illustrated in the book many times as people threw away their babies as an order from their earth god in order for the land to be prosperous. They listened to whatever their god told them without any questions.

Reviewer: Adrianna V.

Genre: Postcolonial critique; tragedy

Although his father was a lazy man, Okonkwo, the protagonist, becomes a great and powerful man in his home of Umuofia, a group of nine villages in southeastern Nigeria. As he grows up, Okonkwo builds his social status in the village through hard work and showing no weaknesses.  He is selected by the elders to be the guardian of Ikemefuna, a boy taken prisoner as a peace settlement between two villages. For three years, Ikemenfuna lives with Okonkwo’s family and they grow fond of him. Then the elders decide that Ikemenfuna must be killed. The oldest man in the village warns Okonkwo not to participate, but he does so anyway. Shortly after Ikemenfuna’s death, many things go terribly wrong for Okonkwo. During a funeral ceremony, he accidentally kills someone. This results in him and his family being exiled for seven years. When Okonkwo returns, he finds his village has been changed by the presence of white men. He and other tribal leaders try to reclaim their land, but are taken prisoners. When the local leader of the white government comes to arrest Okonkwo for killing a white messenger he finds that he has hanged himself, ruining his great reputation.

I thought “Things Fall Apart,” was a very well written novel. When I was first reading this novel I thought it was not going to be that interesting. As I read further and learned more about Okonkwo and his village life the story become more informative and enthralling. This novel taught me about Ibo cultural traditions and how willing the villagers were accepting of the European judgment that they had no history or culture worth considering. I thought Chinua Achebe’s writing style was eloquent and educational.

1. The author’s purpose in writing the novel was to inform the world about Ibo cultural traditions and remind  his own people of their past and assert that it did contain much value.

2. The theme of the novel is the struggle between change and tradition. The thesis of the novel is the importance of customs and traditions.

3. The author supports the thesis throughout the novel. “The Oracle of the Hills and the Caves has pronounced it. They will take him outside Umuofia as is the custom, and kill him there” (Achebe 57). In this time and village it was the custom to kill a fellow villager without feeling any remorse as long as the Oracle told them to do it. “Yam stood for manliness, and he who could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed” (Achebe 33).  It was very important for men to be able to be the soul providers for their families.

4. The main issue the novel raises is the arrival of white missionaries in Nigeria and its impact on traditional Igbo society in the late 1800s. The stance it takes to address the issue is how the tribal leaders and fellow villagers were willing to murder the white men just so they could be able to worship their own gods. The issue was solved when the white men had the tribal leaders and villagers either arrested and put in prison or converted to their religion.

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About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
This entry was posted in Classic Fiction, Fiction, Multicultural. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Things Fall Apart” Student Reviews 2009

  1. Ms. Waddle says:

    I don’t think we know enough about the novels discussing the colonization of Africa. “Things Fall Apart” is a gem. The novels of Nadine Gordimer deal with a later time in South Africa (during 20th century apartheid). You may like those as well. Also a classic is the little novella by Joseph Conrad–“Heart of Darkness.”

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