Things Fall Apart
(Fawcett Premier----t450, March 15, 1959)
Chinua Achebe describes "Things Fall Apart" as a response to Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", which is, comparatively, a denser, perhaps less accessible read. The parallels are there: the ominous drumbeats Marlow describes as mingling with his heartbeat are here given a source and a context. We, as readers, are invited into the lives of the Ibo clan in Nigeria. We learn their customs, their beliefs, terms from their language. Okonkwo, the main character, is the perfect anti-hero. He is maybe Achebe's ultimate creation: flawed, angry, deeply afraid but outwardly fierce. To have given us a perfect hero would have been to sell the story of these people drastically short. Achebe's great achievement is in rendering them as humans, people we can identify with. So they don't dress like Americans, or share our religious beliefs. Who's to say which method is correct, or if there has to be a correct and incorrect way. Achebe provokes thoughtfulness and important questions. His narrative is easy to read structurally, but the story itself is painful and frustrating. It is worthy of its subject.