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Unit: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Historical Background.

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1 Unit: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Historical Background

2 Western Africa

3 West African History  1800’s: European scramble for Africa  Reasons: –Wanted to “civilize” the savages –Natural resources ($) –Expose the Africans to Christianity.  Lasted until late 1800’s when countries started to gain independence

4 Early Exploration  Nations claiming ownership: Portugal, Spain, Dutch, France, Netherlands, England and others soon followed…  Main commodities: slaves, gold, ivory, rubber plants, diamonds and spices

5 Africa Divided


7 European Views of Africa  During this time, most Europeans thought that Africa was a dangerous country, full of cannibals. Explorers brought back stories of strange traditions, people and customs.  Africa was known as the “dark continent”

8 The Dark Continent  Considered Dark for several reasons: –The skin color of the people –Dark in jungle areas (due to overgrowth, trees, etc. –Dark because customs seemed barbaric. –Dark because lack of Christianity (Showing them the “light” of God”

9 Heart of Darkness  Short novel, written by Polish born writer, Joseph Conrad  Fiction, but based on his travels through Africa on the Congo river

10 Summary  Published in 1902, the story follows Charles Marlow, a ferry boat captain who was hired by a Belgian trading company to travel into the Congo in an attempt to transport ivory downriver.

11 Summary Cont.  On his journey, he is also responsible for finding a large supply of ivory that the previous captain is holding captive.  As he continues to travel down the Congo river, Conrad instills fear in the reader by describing the Africans and their customs.

12 Summary Cont.  As Marlow travels down the Congo river, he gives details of how the native people live.  He creates an atmosphere of fear and mystery while describing various stories along the way.

13 Summary Cont.  Marlow eventually discovers that Kurtz has found power in leading the Africans, rather than taking their ivory. They look to him as a God, and he finds himself battling his European views and the realities of traveling through Africa.


15 Dark Continent  Conrad spends a lot of time discussing how dark the Africans were, how dark their customs were, the barbarism of the African ways and hints to the fact that some of this might be because they are not Christians.

16 Quote:  It was unearthly, and the men were—No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it—the suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity—like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly.

17 Publication  Heart of Darkness was very popular when first published.  Many European countries sent missionaries to Africa.  The novel confirmed their ideas of what Africa and Africans were like.

18 Chinua Achebe  Born in Nigeria in 1930  Worked as a radio producer  Awarded over 25 honorary doctorates from Universities throughout the world.

19 Chinua Achabe  Achabe, felt that Heart of Darkness is a racist novel and that it’s author, Joseph Conrad was a racist.  He wrote Things Fall Apart (1959) in an attempt to show that what Europeans thought was strange, actually had meaning and importance.

20 Today  Things Fall Apart is read worldwide in high schools and colleges.  It’s story of a man who “falls apart” as his culture is destroyed by the views and ways of white settlers.

21 Setting  Nigeria  End of 1800s, right before the arrival of white men  Centers around the Ibo tribe.  Told in 3 parts:

22 Style  Simple sentences: simplicity of life  Imagery: metaphors and similes  Proverbs: used to comment on human behavior, importance of oral communication.  Folk Tales: show values of society

23 Religious Beliefs  Different than Christianity: –Supreme God: Chukwu  Represented by many minor gods –Personal Gods: Chi  In control of personal destiny –Ancestors  Represented by masked men at social gatherings. Highly respected and worshipped, provides interaction between the worlds of living and dead

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