Originally written in English and published in 1958, Things Fall Apart was one of the first novels by an African author to garner worldwide acclaim. Though mostly fictional, Nigerian author Chinua Achebe claims that the book documents Africa’s spiritual history – the civilized and rich life the Igbo lived before the arrival of Europeans and the ruinous social and cultural consequences that the arrival of European missionaries brought. Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart as a sharp criticism of imperialism, or the European colonization of countries outside of the European continent (especially Africa and the Americas). The novel also critiques Joseph Conrad’s famous novel, Heart of Darkness, which documented the African natives from an imperialist’s (or white colonizer’s) point of view. Achebe followed Things Fall Apart with two other novels, No Longer At Ease and Arrow of God, both of which also depict the African experience with Europeans.
So, unless you’re from Nigeria, you might not be able to relate to the Igbo culture. We bet your dad hasn’t murdered your adoptive brother, and we’re guessing that your country hasn’t just been colonized and your culture shattered. But if you think you can’t relate to this book, think again. Do you mean to tell us that you’ve never been afraid of becoming like one of your parents? Even an eensy bit scared?
One of the most fascinating parts of Things Fall Apart comes from watching Okonkwo's ongoing battle against being like his father. Okonkwo doesn’t respect anything about his father, which is a bit extreme. Most people, though, do see qualities in their parents that scare them. You know, like the kid with the alcoholic dad who decides never to touch a drink, or the one that has a hideously penny-pinching mom who grows up vowing to never shop at a discount store or use coupons while grocery shopping.
It’s common for people to fear being like their parents, and overcompensate by behaving in the completely opposite way. Okonkwo, however, is an example of what happens to a person who concerns himself more with avoiding his father's traits than with living his own, independent life.