This review about the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is based on my reading, the historical context of the novel’s publication, and a text by Noshua Amoras de Morais e Silva (reference below in Portuguese).
Chinua Achebe (born on November 16, 1930, in Ogidi, in British Nigeria) was one of the best known African authors of the 20th century. Achebe is best known for his two notable works: Things Fall Apart and There Was a Country – A Personal History of Biafra. The main themes of his works are the prejudice that Western culture has concerning African culture and the effects of the European colonization of Africa.
What I believe is important about the author’s background for the analysis of the book is that Achebe was born in 1930, exactly 30 years before Nigeria’s independence as a British colony in Africa (October 1, 1960). Therefore, Achebe experienced Nigeria under British colonial rule and was brought up in the traditional Igbo culture. The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, with the majority of their population located in southern and western Nigeria. According to “Ecos da Leitura” of Tag Livros, there are trace elements of Igbos that date back more than 1500 years.
Things Fall Apart was published in 1958, when Achebe was 28 years old and tells us about the downfall of the Igbo culture after the arrival of European missionaries in Igbo’s land. The book is divided into three parts and its protagonist is a man called Okonkwo.
Okonkwo is a famous fighter of an Igbo community located in Umuofia. He is considered to have a “bad past” due to his dead father’s actions, however, Okonkwo managed to rise within the community. In the first part of the book, Achebe shows us the Igbo culture in several aspects: worship of ancestors, religiosity and even the position of women in the community.
According to Noshua Amoras, the first thing that falls apart for Okonkwo is when a child in the community dies by his gun. Per Igbo’s people’s culture, killing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess. So, as a punishment, Okonkwo and his family had to move to Mbanta for seven years in exile. Mbanta is the clan of the protagonist’s mother.
In Mbanta, Okonkwo joined the clan leaders and they discussed European missionaries trying to contact other nearby communities and even building churches in their territories. Shortly thereafter, missionaries arrived in Mbanta and asked the referred local leaders for permission to build a church.
The leaders, in order to keep the missionaries away, authorized them to build the Church in land considered to be cursed. But, to make matters worse, the missionaries succeed on this cursed land and Okonkwo’s son Nwoye joins the missionaries.
According to Noshua Amoras, things do fall completely apart for Okonkwo when he returns to Umuofia and realizes that the white men had already settled in and built a church. Thus, Okonkwo lives with the missionaries in his community and notices how his culture was dying with the strengthening and impositions made by the church.
He tries to create a resistance to ban white men from his territory, but this does not work as he realizes that they do not have enough weapons to fight against the missionaries. Also, they consider that fighting against them would be the same to go to war with a part of their clan, as part of it was converted to the Christian religion.