Things Fall Apart

Southeast Library

Things Fall Apart

TFAThings Fall Apart, a novel by the renowned author Chinua Achebe, is rooted the deep cultural traditions of the Igbos of eastern Nigeria. Written in the mid-twentieth century at a time when Africa was changing hands from colonial rule to indigenous rule, Achebe portrays a peaceful, organized community torn apart by the introduction of a foreign lifestyle and ideology. As a dissenter, Okwonkwo is presented as a tragic hero whose rise was driven by fear and shame of his father’s waywardness.  His quest for personal glory and cultural maintenance drives him to oppose and defend what he sees as an unwelcome intrusion and erosion of his values by missionaries that lead to his downfall.

The Southeast Book Club met last month to discuss this extraordinary work of fiction as part of Black History month celebrations. The marginalized role of woman in the society was highly criticized by book club members. The Igbo clan that prides itself in its practice of participative democracy and recognition of achievement sees the woman as a second class citizen and inferior to men. To the men of Mbano, the woman’s place in the kitchen. However, while the wife is relegated to the background, a mother is considered the core and maker of the society thus to be respected, cherished and generally held in high esteem. The man adores his mother and stigmatizes his wife. This led some club members to compare the plight of the women of Mbano to the Japanese migrant women of a previous book club title, The Buddha in the Attic.

The role played by the colonial powers was also a major theme. The discussion centered on whether the coming of the missionaries was a blessing to the community, or did the change impact the community negatively.  The missionaries brought religion and education but the values and customs of the people were eroded and destroyed leading to bitterness, division and diatribe within the community.  A house divided amongst itself cannot stand and once the center cannot hold, things fall apart.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 26 to discuss Breathing Room by Patricia Elam.