Activities for Things Fall Apart

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Select the Activity question you wish to respond to. Make a copy of the question to begin your Activity. Post your response to the Blackboard Activity 9: Things Fall Apart Forum.

graphic of one chili pepperAchebe is trying to show that the Igbo had developed a rich, beautiful, ethical, poetic and law-abiding culture long before the Europeans made contact with them. Identify some elements in the story that show the depth and quality of Igbo culture and explain how they affect the story as a whole. Support your ideas with specific examples from the text. 
graphic of one chili pepperOkonkwo is a tragic hero. He is one of the best men of his time and place; he strives mightily and is destroyed by events beyond his control. Compare him to a tragic hero in some other work you have read, perhaps in English 251, such as Achilles or Enkidu or Roland, or perhaps to a tragic hero from some other source -- a movie is ok. Explain how the culture and experience of each tragic hero makes him what he is. Use specific examples from each text and/or film to support your ideas.
Okonkwo makes a serious mistake when he gets involved in the killing of the boy Ikemefuna. Look carefully at this incident and explain what his proper role was and how he overstepped it by actually killing the boy. What do you know about Okonkwo's character and earlier actions which could explain this behavior? Give examples from the story to support your ideas. 
graphic of one chili pepperOkonkwo is an angry, violent, impetuous man. Give several examples of his behavior which demonstrate these qualities. How does his anger and violent, impetuous behavior impel him toward final self-destruction? Do you think a more cautious, peaceable man would have been more successful in a world that was falling apart? Be specific, give examples, etc. 
graphic of one chili pepperGo to your local video store and get a copy of The Gods Must Be Crazy. Watch it and think about the coke bottle -- a symbol of the incomprehensible evils of "civilization" which threaten to destroy the peaceful life of the Pygmy family. Compare this film to Things Fall Apart. Both deal with the impact of colonialism on African cultures. One is amusing, one is tragic. Trace how each presents the colonial intrusion and how it affects the hero of each.  
graphic of one chili pepperGo to the Museum of African Art on the Washington D.C. Mall. (It's part of the Smithsonian). Look for objects/ exhibits that feature Nigeria, especially the Igbo people and their near neighbors. Select two or three of these objects and describe them in detail, explaining how they help you to visualize and understand the traditional life of the Igbo as described in Things Fall Apart. Be sure to use specific examples from the story as well as from the museum to support your ideas.
two chili peppersObierika, Okonkwo's friend, is a moral, thoughtful man, who provides sane and reasonable interpretations of events in the story. Look at several passages where Obierika acts as the moral guide to the story. What, exactly, is his thinking about the events of Okonkwo's life? Give specific examples to support your ideas. 
two chili peppersThings Fall Apart is located in southeastern Nigeria in the early 20th century. Before the Europeans came, the Igbo had lived a life that was structured, lawful and pious, according to their traditional values. However, it was very different from the kind of life and values brought by the European colonials who did not understand the Igbo life, nor did the Igbo understand them. The impact of European rule was to break up the traditional Igbo society without replacing it with a European one, leaving things "falling apart," which is the central theme of the novel.

Trace some of the main events of this "falling apart." Explain the importance of each event you select as it affects the final "falling apart." What, exactly, is "falling apart," anyway?
two chili peppersAchebe himself was raised as a Christian and is clearly ambivalent about the role of Christianity in Africa. On the one hand, Christians do not kill twins by throwing them into the forest. On the other hand, Christianity destroys the tribal identity which kept the Igbo together as a single, unified people. Look at some of the places where Achebe discusses the effects of Christianity on the Igbo, both for good and for ill, and explain how you think Christianity has "infected" the Igbo with "individualism." Use specific examples to support your ideas. 
two chili peppersConsider the roles of various women in Things Fall Apart.  A wife can be beaten for not cooking dinner on time, yet a woman can be a powerful priestess, co-wives can cooperate with one another, and a daughter can be beloved and spoiled by her father. Clearly, the roles of women are as complex here as in any other society. Compare one or two of these women to women you know. How are they utterly different? How are they surprisingly similar? And SO WHAT?  Support your ideas with specific examples from the story and from the woman/women you know.
two chili peppersColonialism is the blanket term used to describe various European countries that conquered and then ruled other countries in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. It had positive aspects -- the communication of "modern" knowledge and technology and what Europeans called "civilization." However, the conquered countries had had their own civilizations, many for thousands of years, and these civilizations were profoundly changed, if not destroyed, by the European colonial rulers.

Compare the impact of the Europeans on the Igbo to some other people they conquered and ruled -- perhaps the American Indians, or the Vietnamese or the people of the Caribbean or Mexico. Use specific examples from Things Fall Apart and from the other colonial situation you select to support your ideas.
graphic of three chili peppersThe Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle, is a sad and brilliant novel about the experiences of an illegal immigrant couple from Mexico living illegally in the wilds of Topanga Canyon (California) and a well-off Anglo family living in a nearby gated community. The Anglo community, at times meaning well, devastates the immigrants, but also suffers. If this interests you, read both Things Fall Apart and The Tortilla Curtain and compare/contrast the culture clashes in them considering who wins, who loses, and why. Worth double credit if you do a thorough job.  
graphic of three chili peppersRudolfo Anaya, a well-known Chicano writer, has examined the clash of Western and native cultures in Bless Me, Ultima, a moving story about a young boy growing up amidst multiple cultures--Mexican and Anglo, Native American myths and the Catholic Church. Ultima is a curandera, a healer, and her wisdom and art of the old ways comes into conflict with the ways of the Catholic Church and the townspeople in 20th century New Mexico. Compare/contrast the interaction of these two cultures with the conflicts between Igbo and European cultures in Things Fall Apart. Worth double credit if you do a very nice job.


© Diane Thompson: 8/1/1998; last updated: March 30, 2012