1. Why does Things Fall Apart end with the District Commissioner musing about the book that he is writing on Africa?
The novel’s ending is Achebe’s most potent satirical stab at the tradition of Western ethnography. At the end of Okonkwo’s story, Achebe alludes to the lack of depth and sensitivity with which the Europeans will inevitably treat Okonkwo’s life. Achebe shows that a book such as The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger, which the commissioner plans to write, reveals much more about the writers—the colonialists—than about the subjects supposedly being studied. The title of the book is also ironic, as it reflects the utter lack of communication between the Europeans and the Africans. Although the Commissioner thinks he has achieved the “[p]acification” of these tribes, he has only contributed to their unrest and increasing lack of peace.
Additionally, the artifice of wrapping up the narrative as fodder for an ethnographic study hearkens back to the close of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. As Marlow, the teller of the main story in Heart of Darkness, concludes his tale about colonization in Africa, the initial narrator, waiting with Marlow to sail out to sea, returns and ponders the water, leaving the reader to wonder what atrocities beyond those in Marlow’s story the British Empire will commit. The conclusion of Things Fall Apart gives the impression of a similar story-within-a-story structure. When the account of how the colonizers have imposed themselves upon Umuofia concludes, the commissioner contemplates the account, leaving little doubt that he will now proceed to impose European values on his version of the account.
2. What is the nature of Okonkwo’s relationship with Ezinma?
Although Okonkwo is generally misogynistic, his favorite child is his daughter Ezinma. Of all Okonkwo’s children, Ezinma best understands how to handle her father’s anger. One example of her sensitivity to his needs is her comforting of him after he has killed Ikemefuna. Ezinma can tell that Okonkwo is depressed but, not wanting to upset him, she doesn’t address his sorrow directly. Instead, she brings him food and urges him to eat. His frequent remarks that he wishes Ezinma were his son because she has the “right spirit” suggest that he desires an affectionate attachment with his sons, so long as it is not openly shown or acknowledged. He values Ezinma not because she exhibits desirable masculine traits but because of their tacit bond of sympathy and understanding.
3. What does the repetition of the number seven suggest about the novel?
In several places (Mr. Brown’s conversations with Akunna, for example), the novel explicitly focuses on the theological and moral similarities between Christianity and Igbo religion. The repetition of the number seven—symbolically important to both religions—is another way of highlighting the similarities between the two cultures. The text seems to draw a parallel between the apparent randomness of the symbolic number often chosen by the Igbo and the determinism of Christianity’s reliance on the number seven in the Bible and in the myth of creation. Indeed, the text explicitly refers to resting on the seventh day; this return to the number seven marks a similarity between the two cultures’ belief systems.
1. Think about the role of weather in the novel. How does it work, symbolically or otherwise, in relation to important elements of the novel such as religion? Are rain and draught significant? Explore the ways in which weather affects the emotional and spiritual realms of the novel as well as the physical world.
2. Women suffer great losses in this novel but also, in certain circumstances, hold tremendous power. What role do women play in Okonkwo’s life? Is there any difference between his interaction with specific women and his understanding of women and femininity in general?
3. Animal imagery abounds in the folktales and proverbs circulated among the clan members. What is the significance of some of the animals they discuss? What does the prominence of animal figures suggest about Igbo culture and about Achebe’s larger goals?
4. In what ways does the idea of progress shape the novel? If Unoka, Okonkwo, and Nwoye are symbolic of three successive generations, how does society in Umuofia change over the course of their lifetimes? Where does Ikemefuna fit into this picture?
5. Throughout the novel, drums, music, and the town crier’s voice punctuate the narrative at key moments. When does silence occur and what does it mean? Is there more than one type of silence? Can silence be characterized as a positive or negative occurrence? What are the implications of the fact that Unoka takes his flute with him to the Evil Forest when he dies?
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In Things Fall Apart, Part Three, how is Reverend Smith different from Mr. Brown?
(Points : 2)
Mr. Brown believed in compromise and accommodation while Reverend Smith believes he must wipe out what he views as the ignorance.
Mr. Brown made many enemies while in Umuofia while Reverend Smith tries to make friends.
Mr. Brown’s primary goal was to build the church while Reverend Smith’s goal is to build schools.
Mr. Brown encouraged fighting while Reverend Smith encourages prayer.