Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958)

Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart (1958) presents a history from an African perspective of the colonisation by the British of the Ibo tribal lands and people in Nigeria.  It is meant to serve as an alternative to the Eurocentric version of events provided by the coloniser. 

Consequently, rather than seeing the Ibo as a primitive people who stood to benefit from the impact of colonisation, Achebe’s book portrays the pre-colonial tribal society as viable, civilised and potentially enduring until it was gradually encroached upon, undermined, and then subordinated by a European power.  Achebe pays considerable attention to showing the subtle, or not so subtle, ways that the traditional tribal society was divided then dominated by only a few white missionaries and administrators along with a number of African helpers. 

Achebe had two audiences in mind.  Seen as one of the founding texts of what later became known as post-colonial literature, the book was written for Africans by an African, so his African readers can see themselves represented in their own literature rather than through the eyes of white people who are either overly sympathetic or unsympathetic, with neither being as insightful as an African would be when writing about his own culture. 

The book was written in English because it was also intended for white Europeans.  It is aimed to educate them about the sophistication of African tribal life before colonial domination.  It is intended to explain to white Europeans how colonialism incrementally destroyed this viable culture by positioning them to identify with these African people and their culture so they see the coming of the British as a threat. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Things Fall Apart meaning, Things Fall Apart themes, Things Fall Apart analysis, Things Fall Apart notes