Things Fall Apart Cultural Analysis

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Things Fall Apart Cultural Analysis

Even if you don't Short Biography: Jennie Shumpert down everything, fieldnotes make you remember events for a long time. These groupings form the building blocks for communities, nations, and regions, which in Hard Situation Essay cases share a common system of knowledge that defines their way of life. What events led to the independence of Nigeria in ? Elon Musks Accomplishments novel why was the treaty of versailles so unpopular in germany with Historical Trauma In American History end of the Igbo society and the death of the hero. These are often implicit in how Jakes Transformative Essay: The Mask Of Madness behave.

Things Fall Apart: Literary Analysis

Enculturation a. What are the processes through which the young are taught? Which are formal and which informal in nature? Discuss the ways that games and folk tales serve enculturation functions. Have students bring in a board game that was important to them when they were young. Ask them to analyze and describe for the class what values or principles they feel the game taught them. Compare these to forms of play in the culture under study.

Rites of Passage a. What ceremonies mark an individual's transition from one position or status to the next in the culture? What ceremonies or celebrations are associated with birth, initiation, marriage, and death? Ask students to write a description of a ceremony they have attended that was a rite of passage in their home culture. Values a. What strongly held beliefs in the culture underlie what is considered to be right and wrong, desirable or forbidden? These are often implicit in how people behave. Ask students to make a list of American values to which other cultures do not, in their opinion, necessarily subscribe.

Have students develop a list of what they consider to be universal values found in all cultures. Social Control a. What methods of informal and formal social control exist to encourage people to adhere to the values of the culture, or to punish them when they do not? Have students discuss the social control mechanisms that affect them, such as peer group influence, school rules, and laws directed at teenage behavior. Religion a. What understanding of the supernatural helps people to cope with adversity and the unknown, and gives meaning to human existence in the culture?

Have students reflect on how they cope with life's hardships, and on the role of formal religion in their lives, if any. This list works very well for a cultural analysis of the Ibo society described in Things Fall Apart. Teachers could vary the concepts emphasized when using other classic African literature such as Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood and The Bride Price , depicting Ibo culture from a woman's viewpoint; Laye's classic autobiography, The Dark Child , about coming of age among the Malinke of French Guinea; and Paton's novel about South African apartheid, Cry the Beloved Country Its main character is Okonkwo, a great warrior of the Ibo people, who is haunted by memories of his father.

This improvident man died in debt without having earned any titles, and was buried shamefully in the "Evil Forest. Okonkwo sets out to achieve great status for himself as a warrior, husband of three wives, and man of many titles. His fierce drive to acquire status in a highly status-driven culture is the source of both his greatness and his downfall. When the first Christian missionaries arrive in Umuofia, they skillfully exploit the Ibos' love of status, winning as their first converts those who have little or none. Among the early converts also is Nwoye, first-born son of Okonkwo and his first wife, a gentle youth who is troubled by some of the Ibo traditions. He is a disappointment to his warrior-father, whom he comes to hate. It soon becomes apparent that the missionaries are really the advance guard for European imperialists who follow in their wake.

When a missionary is killed in the nearby Ibo village of Abame, the Europeans and their followers destroy it. By the time that many Ibo realize they must join forces to fight the Europeans, it is too late. To drive out the white man they would have to kill some of their own kinsmen who, like Nwoye, have eschewed Ibo values. As Okonkwo's great friend Obierika explains, "How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us?

Now he [the white man] has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart" p. One reason that role-playing an anthropologist while reading Things Fall Apart works so well is that the novel is not only about the tragic death of one man, Okonkwo, but also about the demise of his culture. To ensure that we comprehend the dimensions of this tragedy, Achebe describes the Ibo way of life with its many interwoven facets-from the daily tasks of individuals to the annual festivals and religious beliefs that give meaning to existence. By pretending to actually take part in Ibo life, students become interested in even the minutest details, enabling them to gain a deeper appreciation of what "culture" itself means.

Preparing to Take Field Notes Because this project will be new to students, plan to spend several classes setting it up and explaining your expectations. Nightly homework for my seventh graders consists of reading one or two chapters and commenting on them in their field note journals. The next day in class we discuss our entries and compare observations. The project takes about three weeks but might go faster in a high school class. Some suggestions follow. Use Bound Notebooks This activity works best when students are given notebooks in which to keep their field notes. I find small, inexpensive hardcover composition books useful for taking "into the field.

Notebooks can also be used for making maps, charts and sketches. An anthropologist might "map" the village, sketch a picture of a dwelling, or draw a kinship chart. As part of this project, we visited the Museum for African Art in New York City, where students made drawings that later became the covers of their journals. Talk About the Demands of Field Work How do anthropologists react as they leave their own culture behind for a year or more? How does it feel to be stripped of those things that have given life meaning in your culture? What is "culture shock? Chagnon's account of his experiences among the Yanomamo of the South American rainforest, which is both frightening and funny.

As part of their preparation for going into the field, you can also ask students to research the area they will be visiting. What are the temperature and climate like? What geographical features determine the climate? What kinds of landscape exist here? What clothing, Western or indigenous, would be suitable in this environment? What food sources exist? Would students like to eat the indigenous food, and if not, how could they furnish themselves over a years' time with food they would prefer to eat?

How will they travel to Umuofia? How do they plan to learn the language, and what does it sound like? What animals are in the region? What benefits do they provide and what dangers do they pose? What other tribes are in the region and how might they interact with the Ibo? Some of these questions may be hard to answer accurately. Even with access to a university library, I have had difficulty defining the geographical boundaries in which the Ibo lived a century ago. Students will probably have to research the area under the topic "Nigeria," but it is important for them to understand that while the Ibo or Igbo now live in Nigeria, that country did not exist before the British formed the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in that it is an entity created by Europeans after the events described in Things Fall Apart.

Nigeria became an independent nation in , and today encompasses different ethnic groups, the three largest of which are the Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo. Create a System for Field Note Entries If possible, try to show students facsimiles of actual field notes. I obtained selections from the field notes by Eickelman upon which she based her book on Omani women. As Eickelman explained:. The coding at the beginning of each paragraph is to make indexing easier later on. That means you are already sorting out your material from Day 1. It is always best to write fieldnotes sic everyday because many of the little details slip from your mind later on.

I used to write many of my fieldnotes when my daughter took a nap right after lunch. Even if you don't write down everything, fieldnotes make you remember events for a long time. Explain that each field note should represent an insight. It can focus on a concept, posit a hypothesis, pose a question about something not yet understood, or focus on an issue or event. Assign Informants I encourage my students, as anthropologists "living" in Umuofia, to observe and comment on anything they experience as they read. I also assign each student his or her own "informant," a person with whom an anthropologist establishes a special sense of trust and from whom they can learn more about the culture. All four characters are Ibo and members of Okonkwo's clan, yet each relates to Ibo culture from an individual perspective, either male or female.

For most nightly homework assignments, students are instructed to take general field notes on anything they observed in the chapters assigned for reading. But at various times, students are asked to create interviews with their informants. We discuss the importance of asking open-ended questions in language that is not ethnocentric or value-laden. Students are also encouraged to capture the Ibo love of story and parable in their informant's words. The following are excerpts from a student's interview of Ekwefi:. Today I am interviewing Ekwefi, Okonkwo's second wife. I gained her trust by bringing her firewood and cocoa-yam seeds in her obi.

Since then we have spent many days speaking in the market at her shed which she shares with Chielo, the priestess of Agbala. I have arranged to interview her at her obi [living quarters] while she prepares dinner for Okonkwo Student-Anthropologist: Do you feel that Okonkwo cares for any of his children differently because of who their mother is? For example, do you think that Obiageli is favored over Ezinma because Obiageli is the daughter of his first wife?

Ekwefi: It is hard to say because if he shows affection towards any of them it is a sign of weakness. But no, he cares for Ezinma very much, it is obvious, although she is the daughter of his second wife. If anything happens to Ezinma I might as well die, because a woman who does not bear children is like a skinny goat, worthless and unwanted There is more pressure on Nwoye than on the other sons, though, because he is the heir to his father because he is the oldest son of his first wife. Student-Anthropologist: Do you feel that there is male domination among your people? Ekwefi: Domination? What is domination? Several things impressed me about this student's "interview.

Ekwefi's word choices mirror those used by characters in the book. For example, the student has Ekwefi respond to one question using a simile the skinny goat. Finally, the student poses an ethnocentric question about male domination quite on purpose. When Ekwefi answers, "What is domination? The interview demonstrates appreciation of the way "culture" shapes everything from our daily routines to our world view.

I emphasize status as a key concept, directing students to make a special note in their journals any time Achebe describes behavior or uses language that they believe reflects its importance. The place name Iguedo is only mentioned three times in the novel. Achebe more frequently uses the name Umuofia to refer to Okonkwo's home village of Iguedo. Umuofia is located west of the actual city of Onitsha , on the east bank of the Niger River in Nigeria. The events of the novel unfold in the s. The customs described in the novel mirror those of the actual Onitsha people, who lived near Ogidi, and with whom Achebe was familiar. Within forty years of the colonization of Nigeria , by the time Achebe was born in , the missionaries were well established.

He was influenced by Western culture but he refused to change his Igbo name Chinua to Albert. Achebe's father Isaiah was among the first to be converted in Ogidi, around the turn of the century. Isaiah Achebe himself was an orphan raised by his grandfather. His grandfather, far from opposing Isaiah's conversion to Christianity, allowed his Christian marriage to be celebrated in his compound. Achebe wrote his novels in English because the written standard Igbo language was created by combining various dialects, creating a stilted written form.

In a interview with The Paris Review , Achebe said, "the novel form seems to go with the English language. There is a problem with the Igbo language. It suffers from a very serious inheritance which it received at the beginning of this century from the Anglican mission. They sent out a missionary by the name of Dennis. Archdeacon Dennis. He was a scholar. He had this notion that the Igbo language—which had very many different dialects—should somehow manufacture a uniform dialect that would be used in writing to avoid all these different dialects. Because the missionaries were powerful, what they wanted to do they did. This became the law.

But the standard version cannot sing. There's nothing you can do with it to make it sing. It's heavy. It's wooden. It doesn't go anywhere. Achebe's choice to write in English has caused controversy. While both African and non-African critics agree that Achebe modelled Things Fall Apart on classic European literature, they disagree about whether his novel upholds a Western model, or, in fact, subverts or confronts it.

Also, in the logic of colonization and decolonization it is actually a very powerful weapon in the fight to regain what was yours. English was the language of colonization itself. It is not simply something you use because you have it anyway. Achebe is noted for his inclusion of and weaving in of proverbs from Igbo oral culture into his writing. Things Fall Apart is regarded as a milestone in African literature. It has come to be seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, [4] [7] and is read in Nigeria and throughout Africa.

It is studied widely in Europe, India, and North America, where it has spawned numerous secondary and tertiary analytical works. It has achieved similar status and repute in Australia and Oceania. Achebe is now considered to be the essential novelist on African identity, nationalism, and decolonization. Achebe's main focus has been cultural ambiguity and contestation. The complexity of novels such as Things Fall Apart depends on Achebe's ability to bring competing cultural systems and their languages to the same level of representation, dialogue, and contestation. Reviewers have praised Achebe's neutral narration and have described Things Fall Apart as a realistic novel. Much of the critical discussion about Things Fall Apart concentrates on the socio-political aspects of the novel, including the friction between the members of Igbo society as they confront the intrusive and overpowering presence of Western government and beliefs.

Ernest N. Emenyonu commented that " Things Fall Apart is indeed a classic study of cross-cultural misunderstanding and the consequences to the rest of humanity, when a belligerent culture or civilization, out of sheer arrogance and ethnocentrism , takes it upon itself to invade another culture, another civilization. Achebe's writing about African society, in telling from an African point of view the story of the colonization of the Igbo, tends to extinguish the misconception that African culture had been savage and primitive. In Things Fall Apart , western culture is portrayed as being "arrogant and ethnocentric," insisting that the African culture needed a leader.

As it had no kings or chiefs, Umuofian culture was vulnerable to invasion by western civilization. It is felt that the repression of the Igbo language at the end of the novel contributes greatly to the destruction of the culture. Although Achebe favours the African culture of the pre-western society, the author attributes its destruction to the "weaknesses within the native structure. The publication of Achebe's Things Fall Apart helped pave the way for numerous other African writers.

Novelists who published after Achebe were able to find an eloquent and effective mode for the expression of the particular social, historical, and cultural situation of modern Africa. Achebe broke from this outsider view, by portraying Igbo society in a sympathetic light. This allows the reader to examine the effects of European colonialism from a different perspective.

The language of the novel has not only intrigued critics but has also been a major factor in the emergence of the modern African novel. Because Achebe wrote in English, portrayed Igbo life from the point of view of an African man, and used the language of his people, he was able to greatly influence African novelists, who viewed him as a mentor. Achebe's fiction and criticism continue to inspire and influence writers around the world. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie , the author of the popular and critically acclaimed novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun , commented in a interview: "Chinua Achebe will always be important to me because his work influenced not so much my style as my writing philosophy: reading him emboldened me, gave me permission to write about the things I knew well.

A radio drama called Okonkwo was made of the novel in April by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. It featured Wole Soyinka in a supporting role. Directed by Jason Pohland. In , the book was made into a very successful miniseries directed by David Orere and broadcast on Nigerian television by the Nigerian Television Authority. In , a film adaptation of Things Fall Apart was made by a Nigerian production company with an all-Nigerian cast.

Pete Edochie starred as Okonkwo. In , the lyrics of "No Holiday for Madiba", a song honoring Nelson Mandela include the phrase, "things fall apart", in reference to the book's title. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Novel by Chinua Achebe. This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Things Fall Apart disambiguation.

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