Things Fall Apart follows Okonkwo, a man respected in his village for being a wrestling champion. Due to his father’s failures, he spends his life striving to be an ideal man. Okonkwo eventually has to deal with his life and culture changing drastically when European colonizers show up.
I enjoyed Things Fall Apart. Even though the writing style is simplistic I thought the story was very profound. The culture (Ibo/Igbo) is captured very well – as someone unfamiliar it was really interesting to read about.
Okonkwo was also an interesting character. He’s not likeable and does some pretty terrible things but I thought his character was complex. He’s basically a flaw, tragic figure. His desperation to not be like his father and the pressures he faced to be a strong man were great character development.
I think the best thing about the book is that it gave an African culture a complex story. Many books at the time (like Heart of Darkness which Achebe had a few choice words about) tended to portray the cultures and people as barbaric.
The way the book presents the Ibo people shows it’s like most other cultures, with both good and bad practices. The people are real and have a story of their own – they deserve to have their side told.
However, there is some misogyny in the book that could be pretty uncomfortable (Okonkwo beating his wives and strongly wishing his favorite daughter was a boy, are just two examples.) I can’t really tell if the text is supporting it or just being honest about the portrayal of the culture.
Either way, when the European missionaries showed up in the novel it’s a tragic ordeal, Okonkwo’s world falls apart and the text portrays that well. The ending was also very heartbreaking – not just because of Okonkwo’s fate but because of what it says about one of the dangers of colonialism.
Things Fall Apart is a must read.