WORLD LITERATURE II (ENG
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
Activity 9: Things Fall Apart Forum. I will comment on your Activity on the Forum, and send your
grade to you privately, by email.
|Achebe 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.
|Okonkwo 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.
|Obierika, 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.
|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.
|Okonkwo 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.
|Things 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,"
|Achebe 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
|Consider the roles of various women in
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.
|Colonialism 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
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
Fall Apart and from the other colonial situation you select to support your ideas.
|Go to your local video store and get a copy of
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.
|Go 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.
|The 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.
|Rudolfo 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.
(c) Diane Thompson: