A Brief Book Review: “Things Fall Apart”

In my blog post of 15th January titled The Books I Want To Read In 2023, I had shared a list of books that I wanted to read during 2023. These books included both fiction and non-fiction and were selected after some careful planning and thinking. I had also promised to write their reviews once I had finished reading them. So far, I have read four of these books (all novels), but time constraints don’t allow me to write their reviews as promised. Anyway, today, I have somehow managed to write a review of the novel “Things Fall Apart”. Let’s dive into this review.

Things Fall Apart” is a powerful novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. This novel is set in pre-colonial Nigeria. It tells the story of Okonkwo, a great Igbo warrior by exploring the cultural clash between the Igbo people and British colonialism.  This novel also throws light on the complex socio-cultural dynamics of the Igbo people, and the destructive impact of colonialism on the lives of the African people.

The story revolves around Okonkwo, the tragic hero of this moving novel.  He is a proud and ambitious man from the Igbo village of Umuofia. He is a sort of self-made person as he didn’t inherit anything from his father, neither in wealth nor in traits. In fact, his father had died a pauper and Okonkwo was ashamed of him. He resented his father’s failure and weakness. He hated everything that his father had loved, and that included gentleness and idleness. Throughout his life, he was haunted by the fear of failure and weakness.

“With a father like Unoka, Okonkwo did not have the start in life which many young men had. He neither inherited a barn nor a title, nor even a young wife. But in spite of these disadvantages, he had begun even in his father’s lifetime to lay the foundations of a prosperous future. It was slow and painful. But he threw himself into it like one possessed.”

Contrary to his father, Okonkwo was a man of action, and he had risen from abject poverty and misfortune to become the lord of his clan. His wealth was the result of his sweat and toil and had nothing to do with luck. “Anyone who knew his grim struggle against poverty and misfortune could not say he had been lucky.”

His character is described as under:

“Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honour to his village.”

“Okonkwo was clearly cut out for great things. He was still young but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages. He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife. To crown it all he had taken two titles and had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars. … he was already one of the greatest men of his time”

Driven by his compelling desire to prove his worth and become a notable member of his community, Okonkwo struggles hard to reconcile his traditional values with the changing world around him. Through his struggles and successes, the author paints a vivid picture of pre-colonial African life with its rich traditions, rituals, and beliefs. In the novel, the writer skillfully weaves together elements of folklore, religion, and social customs to create a captivating world wherein the novel readers get lost easily.

As the story moves forward, we see the arrival of European missionaries and the subsequent breakdown of Igbo society. The clash of cultures and the erosion of traditional values lead to conflict and tragedy, ultimately resulting in Okonkwo’s tragic downfall. Achebe’s portrayal of colonialism and its impact on African communities is poignant and thought-provoking, highlighting the devastating effects of cultural disruption and displacement.

Okonkwo was deeply grieved. And it was not just a personal grief. He mourned for the clan, which he saw breaking up and falling apart, and he mourned for the warlike men of Umuofia, who had so unaccountably become soft like women.

At its core, “Things Fall Apart” is a tragic story that culminates in the unceremonious end of its hero. Okonkwo’s struggle to maintain his pride and honor in the face of colonialism ultimately leads to his downfall. His story serves as a metaphor for the bigger tragedy that befalls the Igbo people as a whole. 

“That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog…”

One of the most striking aspects of the novel is its vivid portrayal of Igbo culture, including their rituals, beliefs, and traditions. The novel focuses on the importance of clan and family ties, the value placed on hard work and masculinity, and the complex system of social hierarchies that existed within African society. Through Okonkwo’s story, we notice how these values are challenged and ultimately destroyed by the arrival of European colonizers, who bring a different set of beliefs and practices that clash with those of the locals.

Achebe’s prose is hauntingly beautiful and evocative, and he brings to life a complex and fascinating world that is both familiar and strange. His vivid prose transports the reader to an entirely different world. He skillfully captures the nuances of Igbo culture, from their spiritual beliefs to their social structures. The characters are complex and well-developed, each with their own flaws and strengths.

Overall, “Things Fall Apart” is a deeply moving novel that offers a comprehensive critique of European colonialism and its impact on African societies. It is a thought-provoking novel that explores the themes of identity, traditions, religious beliefs, and the clash of cultures. The novel offers vivid glimpses into the richness and complexity of African culture. Achebe’s masterful storytelling makes this novel a must-read for anyone interested in African literature and colonial history in Africa. The novel is a timeless work of art that continues to resonate with readers throughout the world.

5 thoughts on “A Brief Book Review: “Things Fall Apart”

  1. This is an engaging book review that not only provides a summary of the book but also delves into its themes like clash of cultures, impact of colonialism and and its relevance in present times. The review has intrigued me to read this novel by Achebe.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s