Things Fall Apart is one of the best-known and best-loved novels in the whole of modern African literature. Written by Nigeria's Chinua Achebe in the 1950s, it tells a story of the Ibo people of that region in the late nineteenth century. In one sense, it is a highly politicized treatise on colonialism and the particular forms of blindness inherent in that system. In another, it is a classic Greek tragedy.
We finished Things Fall Apart on Tuesday after reading a chapter a day together for a little over three weeks. Our conversations were organic, enlightening, and honest. The kids took a bright and interestingly angled perspective on the trials of Okonkwo, the meanest, strongest, and weakest man in Umuofia.
The kids are producing two pieces of writing on Achebe's novel.
The first is testimony from Okonkwo on the case before the justices at the Alhambra--in other words, they wrote a monologue for him as if he were one of the characters in the Place out of Time project at U of M. The second piece is more classic. The Greek concept of hamartia has two meanings: tragic flaw and tragic error. Apply both to Okonkwo. Cite the text.
Spoiler Alert: Things Fall Apart does not end well for Okonkwo. After we finished chapter 25, we used collection to hold a moment of silence for Okonkwo, whom we mourned even though he was one of the least sympathetic characters any of us had ever seen. We still felt for him. What a book.