Boekverslag : Chinua Achebe - Things Fall Apart
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Title : "Things fall apart"

Author : "Chinua Achebe"

Publisher : "Heinemann Educational Publishers"

Number of pages : "180"

1. Mention the year of first publication and explain the title.

The first year of publication was 1958, by William Heinemann ltd. The whole African community was set in a right way. Everybody believed in the same Gods and they had the same customs. Then the British people came to Nigeria and brought their own religion with them, disrupting the very old patterns of African village life. First, everybody thought that the white men were crazy, but later some of the blacks started to believe in their God as well. This had as result that the Ibo culture began to "fall apart"; they were not one minded anymore. See page 176: "The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he won our brothers and our clan no longer acts like one. He has put a knife on the things that hold us together and we have fallen apart."

2. What part or fragment appealed to you most? Explain why?

The part that appealed to me most, is the part that Ikemefuna was killed. First off all Ikemefuna had become a member of Okonkwo’s family and even started calling Okonkwo his father. Secondly, Ezeudu, one of the elderly men, had warned Okonkwo not to take part in the killing of Ikemefuna, since Ikemefuna started calling him his father. I didn’t think that Okonkwo would reject this advice. Also Okonkwo noticed that Ikemefuna had a strong muscular effect on his "weak" son Nwoye. Last but not least I didn’t think that Okonkwo would be able to kill who has become like his son, because seen from chapter eight is that Okonkwo was depressed by this event. Above all I think that you must be very unemotional to kill the person who has become your son, especially after he cried: "My father, they have killed me" as he ran towards Okonkwo for protection. And he just killed Ikemefuna himself, because he was afraid that the others would think of him as weak (just as his father was). What he didn’t know was that some members of the clan thought that taking part in the murder of his "son" is a crime against the Earth.

3. Which part did you find worst or least interesting? Explain why.

The least interesting part of the book is the part where was told that nine of Ekwefi’s children had died in infancy, where it was explained how Ekwefi felt when Ezinma was born and where they forced Ezinma, an ogbanje, to show where she had buried her iyi-uwa. I do not like this part because nothing interesting happened and I don’t think that it is important for the reader to know these facts, while reading this novel.

4. If you could choose, what person from this story would you like to be? Why?

If I could choose what person from this story I would like to be, I would chose Ezinma, because she has a very strong personality, where the other girls are weak and run away screaming, she stands up for herself. Also Okonkwo said that he would like her to have been a boy by telling how strong Ezinma is compared to the other children.

5. Name one character from the book, whom you hated, or could hate. Explain.

I could hate Chielo, the priestess, because I think that she is very rude and she has no human feelings. This can been seen from the way she reacts toward Ekwefi, when Ekwefi said that she was coming too. An other example is when the priestess was outside the hut and she sort of forced to see Ezinma, although she was asleep. When Okonkwo protested, she ignored him and shouted that Agbala wanted to see his daughter and she really didn’t care that Ezinma had been ill of late and went asleep. Even when she was with Ezinma and woke her and Ezinma started to cry for her mother she didn’t stop. I could also hate the white men, who don't have any respect for other cultures and being very egoistic by wanting these other cultures to believe in their God.

6. In what period is the story set? (If you don't know the exact dates, mention the period as follows: 1600-1650; 1950-2000, etc.) Does it really matter to know in what period the story takes place? Why is that?

The story was set at the end of the nineteenth century. I think it does matter to know in what period this story was set, because otherwise you would not really understand why the white men came to Africa. Well the white men came to Africa, because of colonialism, which was very important for western countries in that period. The more colonies a country had, the more power and respect that country had.

7. Explain why you were or were not satisfied with the ending of the book.

I was satisfied with the end of the book, although I didn’t expect Okonkwo to kill himself after saying that he enjoyed the pain when the whip cut his back. But I think that this shows how desperate he was to get the Ibo-culture back to the way it used to be, so desperate that he gave his life for it. It also shows that he was angry and that it was impossible for him to survive between the different ways of life. I’m very satisfied with the way Okonkwo was taken off the tree and the way he was buried, because it was done in the Ibo way. This gives him his last well-earned respect and I think that he would be very glad that he was buried in the Ibo way, although the strangers had come. I think that what Obierika said: "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" shows all the feelings and explains all the things that had happened at the end of this novel.

8. Compare the main character(s) from the beginning of the story with the same persons at the end of it. Has he/she changed? Has he/she achieved or learned something? Explain.

In the beginning of this novel Okonkwo was very desperate to prove that he is not he man his father was and because of this he is plagued by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. He wants to be strong, manly, respected and so on and that is what he is after defeating Amalinze the cat, a great wrestler. Since then he is known as the "Roaring flame", a wealthy and respected man. Later in the book, the things he believed in started to fague, because he was send into exile for killing a man. When he came back he wasn’t the great man anymore and he seemed very unhappy with the white men in Umuofia. He started to fear things, while he never feared anything before (except for being weak that is). At the end he couldn’t fight his fear of being weak anymore as well as the constant suffering what the white men brought to him and he hang himself, which is a sin against the believe he had believed in for a long time.

9. What would you call a story like this? You can choose more than one name.

Drama with a bit of autobiography.

10. Is there a turning point in the story, a point after which the story takes a different course? Describe.

This story has a turning point. This is when the white men came to Nigeria and disrupted the Ibo life. From this point onwards the Ibo culture began to fall apart. Everybody became divided, some started to believe in the God of the white men, while the others kept on believing in their own Gods and hated the white men for letting the Ibo people not be one community, not one minded anymore.

11. How much time has passed between the beginning and the end of the story. Describe.

About 15 to 20 years. In the beginning of the book, Ikemefuna was brought to Okonkwo's family and he stayed there for about three years before being killed. When the book started Ezinma was just a child. In part two Okonkwo and his family were send into exile for seven years. After they went into exile, they returned back to Umuofia and Okonkwo said that Ezinma had grown into a beautiful young woman. After this the whole white men versus the Ibo men affair took place and that took about a year I guess.

12. Has the writer tried to make a point or statement with this story, or has he tried to make something clear. In other words what is the theme? Explain.

First of all colonialism plays a big role in this novel, which results in calling questions to traditional values and shows us how people of different cultures meet. Colonialism also destructs the African culture by destructing the bonds between individuals and the Ibo society. An other important thing in this novel is change. New ideas in religion, in economic, political and social structure, but also new laws. This results from the pressure of new ideas. These new ideas bring stress into the society and the society splits up. This in turn leads to violence, because some of the person will not or can not understand this.

13. Who actually tells the story? In other words: what is the narrative perspective? Do you see what is happening from the point of view of the main character, of one of the other characters, or the writer? Explain.

You see what is happening from the point of view from the writer, because sometimes it seems that the person telling the story knows more than the characters from the story. An other reason is that the story isn’t written in the I-form, which is important if a character tells the story. There are also not so many dialogs in the novel. Although the writer tells the story, the story follows Okonkwo in everything he does, what happens to him and it always shows how he feels and what he thinks.

14. Where is the story set? Does it really matter where the story takes place? In other words: Why is the setting important or why does the setting not really matter? (country, town, district, building, indoors/outdoors etc.)

The story takes place in Africa, in Nigeria, in an Ibo town, called Umuofia, which lies next to the lower Niger. Part two is set in the town Mbanta. I think that the setting is important to the novel, because it would be strange if the Ibo culture would be in a not African country. Also if it wasn't set in Africa it would be strange to say that the white men came. Therefore, I think that because the whole book is about the Ibo culture (and later versus the white men's culture) that the story must have taken place in Africa, meaning that the setting is important to the novel.

15. Would you recommend this book to your classmates or not? Explain why?

I would recommend this book to my classmates, because I think that it is important to know something about other cultures as well and because I think that the events in this novel are nice to read and they are described in a good way.

16. If you had to give a mark for this book, what would that be?


17. Make a brief summary of the most important events in the story (Minimum is 1x A4).

In things fall apart, the main character is Okonkwo, a man who has become highly respected in his village. Okonkwo has always hated his father who had done nothing remarkable or respectable in his life. In the Ibo-society, a man gets his start from its father, so when Okonkwo was born, he was a shame for his village. Okonkwo decided that he wanted to become so successful, that his father was forgotten by him as well as by his villagers. Nevertheless, he was always afraid of being called weak. Okonkwo has a very short violent temper and he immediately reacts to anything which he thinks could make the others think weak of him. However, almost every time he reacts to this thought, he brings trouble upon himself, as well as on those around him. Okonkwo works hard to make the best of it and is respected as a man of great power after throwing Amalinze the Cat. After a while he is able to get three wives and many children, but he has the fear that his children will turn out like his father was and that he will be judged as a sign of weakness. Because he is so afraid for this, he is very harsh and firm with his children as well as with his wives. When a conflict arises between his village and an other village, a boy Ikemefuna is given to Umuofia as a good will sign for peace. Okonkwo is given the responsibility of caring for the boy. Ikemefuna becomes a member of the family and even calls Okonkwo "father". Based on this some tribe members advised him to do not take part in the killing of Ikemefuna, which the tribe is planning. Then the time has come and Okonkwo strikes the boy down, because he was afraid that if he didn't he would be thought weak. Okonkwo is crazy about his daughter Ezinma and shows his concern and caring for her. When he accidentally kills the son of a village elder at a funeral due to a misfire, Okonkwo is forced to leave his village for seven years. He then goes to live in his mothers' village. After serving out his punishment, he returns to his village, still thinking that he is a great man. His return was celebrated, but he was warned that everything he believed in is threatened by the arrival of the white man who brought with him his own God and church. Ever since this point, Okonkwo fears the white men. He has this fear, because he is afraid for the new religion and its potential of undermining the life long work of the clan trying to please the Gods of it's ancestors. If Okonkwo would accept this new religion, his sacrifices to the Gods, like the killing of Ikemefuna would have been done in vain. Also the twins who were stuffed into pots and left to die in the evil forest would have died for no justifiable reason. One of Okonkwo's greatest fears about the new religion is that it could destroy the social hierarchy of the clan: "None of his converts was a man of title. They were mostly the kind of people called efulefu, worthless, empty men. (Page143)" At a certain point, the white men captured Okonkwo and five friends and as a punishment they got cut with a whip on their back, heads were shaven, were not given any water, had no place to urinate, at night messengers came in to taunt them and knock their shaven heads together. Instead of hating the pain, Okonkwo enjoys it. Okonkwo suffers under these conditions and burns a church. By the end of the novel, many of Okonkwo's fears have been realised and the social order of the clan is falling apart. The fear of the new religion and government, which causes Okonkwo to take the life of a white official, also causes him to take his own life.

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