Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

(New York: Penguin Classics, 1958/2006), 196

Things Fall Apart tells the story of Okonkwo's life and struggles—and eventual experience with European colonization—in Nigeria. I appreciated seeing life from Okonkwo's perspective and learning about Igbo life. It was shocking to then read about the consequences of colonialism right at the end of the book after following him over the course of his life.

After reading this novel I spent time thinking about the events presented from the perspective of the native tribes, the Christian missionaries, and the European colonial government. The events of the book remind us to avoid both idealizing a romantic view of primitive cultures as purer than our own (when in fact they often include evils such as the killing of Ikemefuna and the abandonment of twins described), while also not idealizing a Western historical narrative of inevitable progress and moral improvement (especially one that whitewashes real evils committed, often falsely in the name of God for political or economic gain). From this novel we can appreciate both the African respect for nature and focus on familial bonds, as well as the Christian affirmation of the dignity of every person as made in the image of God.


  • "Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered." (8)
  • "Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand...his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness...It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father." (12-13)
  • "Go home and work like a man." (17)
  • "It pleases me to see a young man like you these days when our young have gone so soft." (21)
  • "Since I survived that year I shall survive anything." (24)
  • "Even Okonkwo himself became very fond of the boy—inwardly of course. Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger." (27)
  • "But he always found fault with their effort, and he said so with much threatening." (31)
  • "He would be very much happier working on his farm." (36)
  • "He was afraid of being thought weak." (57, killing Ikemefuna)
  • "Okonkwo was not a man of thought but a man of action." (64)
  • "A man's life from birth to death was a series of transition rites which brought him nearer and nearer to his ancestors." (115)
  • "A man belongs to his fatherland when thins are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme." (126)
  • "Those were good days when a man had friends in distant clans. Your generation does not know that. You stay at home, afraid of your next-door neighbor." (129)
  • "There is no story that is not true." (132)
  • "But there was a young lad who had been captivated. His name was Nwoye, Okonkwo's first son. It was not the mad logic of the Trinity that captivated him. He did not understand it. It was the poetry of the new religion, something felt in the marrow. The hymn about brothers who sat in darkness and in fear seemed to answer a vague and persistent question that haunted his young soul—the question of the twins crying in the bush and the question of Ikemefuna who was killed. He felt a relief within as the hymn poured into his parched soul. The words of the hymn were like the drops of frozen rain melting on the dry plate of the panting earth. Nwoye's callow mind was greatly puzzled." (139)
  • "We do not ask for wealth because he that has health and children will also have wealth. We do not pray to have more money but to have more kinsmen." (156)
  • "We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so." (157)

Topic: Africa, Colonialism


Created: 2023-03-19-Sun
Updated: 2023-04-20-Thu