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     Volume 2 Issue 14 | April 15, 2007|


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Book Review

Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Heinemann Publishers (Pvt.) Limited (1958)

Review By: Mushira Habib

Do you know how it feels when “things fall apart”? I do, and if you would also like to experience the pleasure and the pain through which I went, you should go through Chinua Achebe's world famous novel Things Fall Apart. Here you will find the true history of the Igbo people and their land as well as a vivid picture of things falling apart.

Things Fall Apart is basically a novel to inform the “white” dominated world about the so called “black” people from Africa and their lives. It is about the Igbo people and their pre-colonial culture and history. These people were and sometimes still are referred to as the “niggers”, considered as being raw, rootless, uncultured and uncivilized. Achebe, in this novel, draws the attention of the world to declare that they also had an indigenous culture and social structure which was snatched away by the British colonizers.

The best thing about the novel is that it portrays the picture of pre-colonial Africa just the way it was. There is no criticism or exoticism in Achebe's description of their civilization. He has brought up the good things like the social order, the taboos and laws of the society, respect for the old, women's freedom of choice, religious beliefs, the festivals and celebrations, and so on. On the other hand, Achebe has also presented the dark sides of the society. For example, the dominance of men, husbands beating their wives, Polygyny, infanticide of twins, the lack of education and technology, and so on.

Things Fall Apart describes the journey of Okonkwo, a successful young man. Then we see his gradual decline in life. We can also find the stories of other Igbo people from about three clans and how their innocent lives changed because of the emergence of the British missionaries. Okonkwo was punished for a mistake at one point, and sent to his motherland. By the time he came back, things had already begun to fall apart and there was no way left to bring them back in place. The novel leaves us with the tragic end of Okonkwo.

The most interesting characteristic of this novel is the use of Igbo words within the English context. I had to often go back to the glossary which was given at the beginning to get the meaning of these words. But eventually I didn't have to look up the glossary all that often because the words became familiar. A great way to learn words from a new language-isn't it? There are also some songs and proverbs, which are significant parts of the Igbo language and also add to the beauty of the novel.

It is said that Achebe's Things Fall Apart was written intentionally as an answer to the novels by Joseph Conrad, Joyce Cary and Graham Greene, which were set in Africa. Achebe found out that these novels misinterpreted Africa and he wrote Things Fall Apart from the “inside” to portray the actual picture of African history and culture. If that was the aim, I must say that Achebe was extremely successful. This novel was highly acclaimed and changed the view of millions of people about Africa. This book has established itself as one of the best post-colonial writings in history. So, get a copy of this wonderful book named before “things fall apart”.


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