Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things Fall Apart; the center cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
–W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”
Things Fall Apart is a classic narrative about Africa’s cataclysmic encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial presence on the continent. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy and fearless Igbo warrior of Umuofia in the late 1800s, Things Fall Apart explores one man’s futile resistance to the devaluing of his Igbo traditions by British political and religious forces and his despair as his community capitulates to the powerful new order.
Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive, and his fame spreads throughout West Africa like a bush-fire in the harmattan. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then, Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his world thrown radically off-balance, he can only hurtle towards tragedy.
Things Fall Apart provides one of the most illuminating and permanent monuments to the African experience. A simple story of a “strong man” whose life is dominated by fear and anger, Things Fall Apart is written with remarkable economy and subtle irony. Uniquely and richly African, at the same time, it reveals Achebe’s keen awareness of the human qualities common to men of all times and places. Achebe does not only capture life in a pre-colonial African village, he conveys the tragedy of the loss of that world while broadening our understanding of our contemporary realities.