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An introduction to Things Fall Apart

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1 An introduction to Things Fall Apart
By Chinua Achebe

2 Chinua Achebe tells why he wrote TFA in his article “An African Voice”
“The last four or five hundred years of European contact with Africa produced a body of literature that presented Africa in a very bad light and Africans in very lurid terms. The reason for this had to do with the need to justify the slave trade and slavery…This continued until the Africans themselves, in the middle of the twentieth century, took into their own hands the telling of their story.”

3 Achebe’s purpose 1. to counter images of African societies and peoples as they are represented within the literary works written by westerners. 2. to reclaim his own and his people’s history.

4 As you read about the novel, think about these things:
How does Achebe use fiction as a means of expressing and commenting on history? To what extent is Things Fall Apart successful in communicating an alternative narrative to the dominant Western history of missionaries in Africa and other colonized countries?

5 Our objectives in studying the novel
Become familiar with some African Literature and literary traditions Become familiar with elements of African and Nigerian culture See how historical events are represented in fiction Understand narrative perspective as culturally positioned (Afrocentric vs. Eurocentric perspectives)

6 Historical backgrounds
Three distinct periods: 1. pre-colonial –when the native African people ruled themselves 2. European colonization—1880s forward: when European countries came in and took over the rule of African nations by making them colonies of a “mother” country 3. post-colonial—1960s forward: when most African countries became independent nations

7 The period of colonization
In , the Congress of Berlin set down ground rules for the colonial conquest of Africa by European nations. Over the next twenty years, all of Africa except Ethiopia and Liberia was violently conquered. In many cases, the native African people did resist, but they were unable to hold off the European rule.

8 The setting for Things Fall Apart
The end of the 19th century (late 1800s) European nations are beginning to take over African territories and make them colonies, often using violence to subdue the native people. Achebe wrote and published the novel during the end of the colonization period when African nations were beginning to become independent.

9 The Significance of the Novel
In an interview given in August 2002 and published in “An African Voice”, Achebe explains how the European colonization disrupted African societies. Analyze each sentence for what it tells us about the significance of the novel.

10 Achebe’s words The society of Umuofia, the village in Things Fall Apart, was totally disrupted by the coming of the European government, missionary Christianity, and so on. That was not a temporary disturbance; it was a once and for all alteration of their society.

11 To give you the example of Nigeria, where the novel is set, the Igbo people had organized themselves in small units, in small towns and villages, each self-governed.

12 With the coming of the British, Igbo land as a whole was incorporated into a totally different polity, to be called Nigeria, with a whole lot of other people with whom the Igbo people had not had direct contact before.

13 The result of that was not something from which you could recover, really. You had to learn a totally new reality, and accommodate yourself to the demands of this new reality, which is the state called Nigeria.

14 Various nationalities, each of which had its own independent life, were forced by the British to live with people of different customs and habits and priorities and religions.

15 And then at independence, fifty years later, they were suddenly on their own again. They began all over again to learn the rules of independence.

16 The problems that Nigeria is having today could be seen as resulting from this effort that was initiated by colonial rule to create a new nation.

17 Achebe’s beliefs Achebe wanted to write on behalf of his own people
He emphasizes that “those that have been written about should also participate in the making of these stories.” (“An African Voice”)

18 In conclusion, Achebe writes, “until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

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