Monday, February 18, 2008

THINGS FALL APART by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s first novel. It deals with Nigerian tribal life before and during white colonialism, with particular attention to how tribal culture and white colonial culture come into conflict when white people move in and attempt to convert the natives to Christianity.

Things Fall Apart is slow-paced. There is no plot to speak of here beyond antihero Okonkwo’s ambitions, and the cultural conflict does not begin until the last quarter of the book. In the meantime, Achebe explores tribal culture in depth, with attention to tradition, religion, ritual, and family structure.

Achebe’s writing is rather simple (often praised as “deceptively simple”), and sometimes repetitive. Achebe is a better storyteller than he is a writer, as his protagonist is well-rounded and his supporting characters are sufficiently well-rounded, even though the novel drags at times.

On the whole, Things Fall Apart is now overrated, but it is still a solid rebuttal to those who glorify white colonialism, as well as an exploration of Nigerian tribal culture.