Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, is a very rich novel. Set in a Nigerian village at the outset of the 20th century, it is the story of Okonkwo, an Ibo warrior and clan leader struggling to come to terms with the upheaval of his cherished way of life.
Proud, wealthy and respected by the members of his community, Okonkwo values above all his position in traditional Ibo society. With the arrival of Christian missionaries and colonial administrators in his home of Umuofia, however, he fears the loss of everything that is most important to him. As Okonkwo's story unfolds, Things Fall Apart moves steadily toward an inevitable collision between African and European culture ‹ and toward its central character's tragic demise.
The richness of the tale lies in many things, including its language and its local flavor. From the inside we glimpse the world of the Ibo people: their customs, rituals, festivals, beliefs and worship. Achebe's point in African Writers on African Writing that "The African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans" is clear from his sympathetic portrayal of a sophisticated and ordered society worthy of respect.
Ultimately, the rich tapestry of Things Fall Apart is rooted in Achebe's philosophy of art. He believes that the African writer cannot tell a story just for the sake of telling, cannot afford to create just for the sake of creating. Artistic endeavor must be an instrument of social change.
For Achebe, "the worst thing that can happen to any people is the loss of their dignity and self-respect," and the writer's duty is to "help them regain it by showing them in human terms what happened to them, what they lost." In this…