LSCS Libraries | Research Guides | LSC-Kingwood Assignment Guides |

Things Fall Apart by Achebe Chinua

Achebe and the original manuscript from the Paris Review


Lone Star College-Kingwood Assignment Guide

First published:  1958 
Time of Plot: 1880's 
Locale: Ibo tribal village of Umuofia in what is modern day Nigeria 
Keywords:  Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Igbo(Ibo), Nigeria, Imperialism, Colonialism, African culture, African rituals, African nationalism


Writing for your ENGL1302 class will require a little background work.  Be willing to spend time getting to know the author and his works - and his village.  You will enjoy the reading and writing so much more.  After your background reading consider a theme or subject you want to pursue.  Suggestions are included below, but you may think of soething yourself.  Do a quick search and make sure you will be able to support your topic. 


Librarian talk about Getting Started!

Selecting what you want to write about is the most important thing you will do. Do a little background reading in reference books of criticisms professionals have written about Things Fall Apart. Consider keywords that will help you find the information you need. These can be names of people, events, or broader identifying terms. Use these keywords for locating information in the library catalog, electronic databases, and on the internet.

More about Choosing Keywords (30 sec.)


Children in the Ibo culture

Contrast of religious beliefs

Characterization Missionaries in Africa Symbolism of names
Conflicting cultural mores Comparison with Burrough's Tarzan of the Apes Inability to adapt to change
Meaning of the title The mask as a symbol Use of the English language in African writing
Women in the Ibo culture Comparison with Conrad's Heart of Darkness Lessons learned during exile

About Achebe

Chinua Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi, an Igbo village near the Niger River in a Nigeria under British rule. His parents were devout Christians, and his father worked as a teacher of the Church Missionary Society. As a child Mr. Achebe was taught to look down on his fellow tribe members who practiced the traditional faith. Nonetheless, he was fascinated with the customs and traditions of his non-Christian neighbors and went to their ceremonies and festivals despite the fact his parents forbid him to do so.

Achebe attended a government-run secondary school where he learned to love and appreciate British literature. He enjoyed the authors such as Joseph Conrad and their tales of Africa but came to realize "that these writers had pulled a fast one on me! I was not on Marlowe’s boat steaming up the Congo in Heart of Darkness. I was one of those strange beings jumping up and down on the river bank, making horrid faces." He decided that he could write a more realistic portrayal of his culture and began by writing articles for his college campus newspaper.  Then in 1958 he published his first novel, Things Fall Apart.  He had gone to work for the Nigerian Broadcasting company in 1953 and rose to the position of director of the Voice of Nigeria by 1961.  That same year he married and settled down to a comfortable life in a suburb of the capital city of Lagos.  This all came to an end  when a coup by Igbo army officers was met with a countercoup of  predominately Muslim officers.  There ensued one of the worst massacres ever on the African continent, with as many as 30,000 Igbo tribesmen murdered.  Achebe fled to the Igbo region of Nigeria, which later declared itself an independent country, the Republic of Biafra.  The new country suffered much misery, but he supported the new republic, using his energies to begin a new publishing firm and to seek aid for the children in Biafra.  When Biafra lost the fight for independence, Achebe worked as a research fellow at the University of Nigeria.  He took an active interest in the publishing industry in Africa, helped promote the careers of young African writers, and divided his time between teaching posts in Nigeria and the United States.  Since 1991 Mr. Achebe has taught at Bard College in Annandale, New York.

Take 5 minutes to watch the video about Nigeria's most important author, Chinua Achebe, and get a feeling for the Igbo region of Nigera where the story is set.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

~ Yeats


Okonkwo - Respected village leader  |  Ekwefi - Okonkwo's wife number 2 who has only one child, a daughter  |  Ezinma - Ekwefi's only child |    Nwoye - Okonkwo's oldest son  |  Obierika - a friend of Okonkwo  |  Ikemefuma - a boy given to the clan by a neighboring village and raised in Okonkwo's household  |  Mr. Brown - a Christian missionary who is tolerant of the Igbo traditions  |  Reverend James Smith - the Christian missionary who succeeds Mr. Brown

The Nigerian Ibo village of Umofia is the home of Okonkwo, a man, who through very hard work and his athletic and warrior abilities, has attained a place of prominence.  He is driven by the desire to live down the reputation of his indolent, music- loving father.  When he accidentally kills a young member of his tribe, he must go into exile for seven years.  He lives in the village where his mother was born and prospers there.  However, he only wishes to return to Umofia and regain his position of respect and authority.  During Okonkwo's seven year exile, the village is changed by its contact with European culture and the Christian religion.  Okonkwo's son Nwoye converts to the white man's religion.  Okonkwo is unable to adjust to the changes and tries to fight the new ways.  He is sent to jail and, on his release, he kills a messenger from the British authorities.  Okonkwo then commits suicide, a crime worse than any other in the Ibo culture.


Librarian Talk about Books!

Apply online for a library card.   Use the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card to:
      1. Place a hold on a book.
      2. Request a book listed in the catalog but available from another location.
      3. Access databases from home. 
    The catalog is online at Lone Star College-Kingwood Library Catalog
    Electronic books or eBooks are available in the eBook Collection. You will need the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card  to read eBooks from off-campus. Create a Free Account to save favorite book titles and notes in eBook Collection.

      More about...Finding Books (31 sec.)


      REF PN523 .M29


      Magill's Survey of World Literature


      Evaluates the novel's place in its time

      REF PN523 .W67 World Literature Criticism Similar to CLC, this book has excellent information for background reading.
      REF PN771 .C59 
      Contemporary Literary Criticism CLC contains excerpts from critical essays in books and journals.  Use these volumes to 1) select a topic or theme, 2) find the full article or essay in the library, and 3) locate other articles and books from the "Further Reading" section.
      REF PR106 .S7
      Reference Guide to English Literature A critical analysis of the plot of the novel.
      REF PR9387.9.A3
      The Chinua Achebe
      Encyclopedia articles pertaining to Achebe and his works.
      T52397 2003
      Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart
      A Casebook
      Essays of criticism on Things Fall Apart


      Librarian Talk about Finding Journal and Newspaper Articles! 

      Electronic databases are purchased by the libraries for your research use. Use them to find articles in newspapers and journals, letters, reference books, illustrations, photographs and more. Home access to article databases is available with your updated library card barcode. If you need assistance finding an article contact the Reference Librarians and they will see that you get the article. They will need full bibliographic information - and your name and address. Send your phone number as well, so they can contact you if necessary.

      From home, use the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card to login to these online journal databases. If you are one of our students, call if you don't have your card.

      More about searching databases (25 sec.)

      JSTOR Arts & Sciences Search for scholarly journal articles in literature, economics, history, social sciences, science and mathematics. Use the advanced search page for the best search results, and put keywords in separate search boxes. Limit your search to Articles and select Language and Literature from the disciplines list for more focused results. 

      ProjectMuse Begin your search by entering the title of the novel in the search box in quotation marks.  Use the limiters on the left side of the screen to focus your search to Journals, full access (complete articles), or research areas. You can Modify a search to add keywords from your thesis - click on the + mark to add search boxes.  This database is also entirely scholarly, so all articles will be of the appropriate academic level for your research.

      Literature Resource Center  Includes articles from Contemporary Literature Criticism, Dictionary of Literary Biography, and Twayne's Masterworks books, as well as some full text journal articles. A good database to begin your research, locate major themes or topics to develop your thesis. Find articles, work overviews, and critical essays from this electronic database from Gale.

      Bloom's Literary Database Online  |  This database is a collection of many analytical essays discussing literature.  These essays, originally published in print form, are accessible now for research online. Find information about Things Fall Apart, or read about the life of Chinua Achebe and his body of work. 

      Academic Search Complete  Index to journals articles, some full text.  Limit to "scholarly (peer reviewed) journals" to find articles from appropriate resources.


       Nigerian flag
      Librarian Talk about the Internet!

      The internet will be a wonderful source of original documents. Browse the sites we have suggested below. Remember, you do want to find reputable sites. Look at:

      • Accuracy - The information should be researched and show proof of that research. 
      • Source - Look at the domain:  .edu   .gov   .org  .net are valid research sources. Your company's website is also a valuable resource.
      • Authority - What are the author's credentials? (Don't quote from another college freshman's paper.)
      • Coverage - Does the page have the information you need for your research?
      • Objectivity - If a work is biased, use it - just make sure your professor knows YOU know. Offer both sides of issues, where applicable.
        More about finding internet sources (25 sec.)


      Librarian Talk about getting help!

      Support for a successful paper is more than finding the right resources. Putting it all together takes time and effort. Sometimes it takes additional help from the librarians or tutors. Please consider the following resources if you need additional help. Remember, the expert on the assignment is your professor; use the eCollege VISTA in-class email to contact her.

      More about getting help (25 sec.)

      Citing Sources Using MLA Style | Lone Star College-Kingwood Library guide. Examples of both paper and electronic citations.

      Avoiding Plagiarism  |   Excellent information and guide on how to avoid plagiarism from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.

      The Learning Center   |   Check the TLC hours for in-house tutoring.

      Written by: Bettye Sutton. 6/2002. Revised 7/2012 B. Bradley.

      Ask Us
      Reference: 281.312.1693
      Circulation: 281.312.1691



      LSC-Kingwood Library Assignment Guides  | About LSC-Kingwood Library | LSCS Libraries
      preload menu background image