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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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1 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Chapter 1

2 1. The first sentence of the novel serves two purposes. First, the sentence establishes the narrator as within the community about which he is speaking. The sentence also introduces Okonkwo, situating him within a community of nine villages

3 2. One rhetorical strategy is the repetition of the animal imagery of the cat. Achebe immediately thrusts the reader into a culture where nature and the wild play vital roles in the village. Achebe also introduces the reader to the number seven in the mention of the man who fought a spirit for “seven days and seven nights.” In Ibo religion, the number seven is symbolic of God’s seal. Achebe references this number in order to create a connection between the Christian religion that is introduced later in the novel and the Ibo culture’s reliance on the spiritual world. Before Things Fall Apart, much of the literature written about Africa focused on the differences between African and the Western culture. Achebe is trying t establish that there are some similarities between the two cultures.

4 3. The line is an example of a simile. Comparing Okonkwo to a fish illustrates how tactical he was when fighting Amalinze. Through the simile, Achebe creates a vivid image in the reader’s mind of the “cat” trying in vain to snare a slippery fish in water.

5 4. Here is another simile. Again, Achebe creates an image—this time of a roaring bush-fire to illustrate Okonkwo’s rapid rise to fame.

6 5. The line is an example of polysyndeton, which is a repetition of conjunctions in a series of words, phrases, or clauses. It creates a rhythm in the language, almost like the beat of drums.

7 6. Okonkwo is a large and imposing man. Achebe describes him as seeming ready to pounce on people. He uses the animal imagery to illustrate Okonkwo’s instinctive nature.

8 7. Unoka is Okonkwo’s father. He is a lazy man, who owed money to everyone. “He was tall but very thin and had a slight stoop.” When he was alive, he spent much of his money on alcohol and did a poor job providing for his family. Even before the reader is introduced to Unoka, we learn that Okonkwo had “no patience with unsuccessful men.” It is later emphasized that Okonkwo had no respect for the memory of his weak and effeminate father.

9 8. Achebe is establishing the background for Okonkwo’s character. One of a writer’s techniques in characterization is to use other characters to illustrate aspects of a particular character’s personality. In order to establish part of Okonkwo’s hardworking, impulsive, personality, the reader needs to see why he feels so strongly about hard work. Achebe uses Okonkwo’s father to help illustrate this quality. Okonkwo’s attitude toward his father will also eventually inform his attitude toward his own son,

10 9. Okonkwo is shaped by his father’s inability to provide for his family. In the African culture, family and community are very important. Unoka was not good at either. As a child, Okonkwo was embarrassed by his father’s laziness and did not want to grow up to be ridiculed by the village like his father.

11 10. The use of proverbs is an example of the rich language the Ibo people possess. They have a rich, storytelling tradition, and the proverbs allow people to include storytelling in their everyday conversations. The metaphor comparing proverbs to palm oil emphasizes that proverbs are common in their speech and add flavor to their conversation the way palm oil adds flavor to food.

12 11. The reader learns that Okonkwo is embarrassed and ashamed of his father.

13 12. The text refers to him as “the doomed lad who was sacrificed to the village of Umuofia by their neighbors to avoid war and bloodshed.” The text also refers to him as the “ill-fated lad.”

14 13. These references foreshadow that something tragic is going to happen to him.

15 14. The first chapter serves several purposes. First, it establishes Okonkwo as the protagonist of the novel. Through stories of Okonkwo’s father, the reader understands the basis for Okonkwo’s personality. Achebe also uses the first chapter to establish traditions and customs in the Ibo culture. Until the point this novel was written, European literature mostly characterized Africa as a barren land devoid of culture and language. Achebe manages to illustrate the complexities of the African society, as well as the complexities of the Africanlanguage and oral tradition.

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