Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

7/10 (Pretty much story-less)

This is really more an anthropological study than a novel, but it’s endlessly fascinating and informative just the same. It’s difficult to care much about it as a narrative just because the ostensible protagonist is maniacal and unapproachable. There’s not a plot per se, just a series of episodes in the life of the tribe (and principally in the life of this one man, Okonkwo). The language is not very poetic. But the way tribal customs and habits are woven into the very fabric of the story is amazing. It’s as if every description has an ulterior purpose of imparting some tidbit of tribal goings-on.

A plot of sorts does kick in over halfway through when the missionaries come to the tribes. The description of their settling and growing influence is well-done in its subtlety. One of the best things the book does is getting us to see everything from the tribal perspective, so that we are actually sad and upset when the white man comes and begins upending everything. These are people that leave their sick and their babies to die of exposure, yet we feel injustice when their heritage is ripped away without warning or permission.

So ultimately, as literature I’m not a huge fan. But as a volume that shows in exquisite detail the daily life of a little-known, far-flung corner of the world, and one that uncovers many profound questions about the clashes of cultures and the “civilizing” of primitive peoples, “Things” is certainly invaluable.


Original Review


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