Lower Nigeria in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

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“It was a terrible night. Not even the oldest man in Umuofia had ever heard such a strange and fearful sound, and it was never to be heard again. It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming—its own death.”1

In his novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe describes the fictional village of Umuofia located in Nigeria. The novel follows the life of Okonkwo, a great leader of the Umuofian people, as he experiences British colonization in his own community in the late nineteenth century. The novel is essentially split into two parts, the first explaining the customs and traditions of Umuofia, and the second describing Umuofia’s religious exploitation at the hands of Christian missionaries. In fact, Achebe chose to write Things Fall Apart in English to emphasize the influence of British colonists in Nigeria, and since its publication in 1958, his novel has become the most widely read book in modern African literature.

Although Umuofia is a fictional location, Achebe bases his descriptions of the “Ibo” tribesmen on his own experiences growing up in Ogidi in Nigeria, as well as his knowledge of the customs of nearby villages. The villages surrounding the fictional Umuofia were composed of small groups of people ruled by revered elders, the same as the villages near Ogidi. Umuofia is located on the east bank of the Niger River, west of the real city of Onitsha. In the early 1900s, Christian missionaries from Britain came to this region of Nigeria to introduce and impose their religious practices and customs on the native peoples. While Things Fall Apart focuses on the fictional Umuofia, Okonkwo’s experiences in the novel reflect the true occurrences of many Nigerian villages during British colonization.

Find Things Fall Apart at a local library or on Amazon.

1 Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor Books, 1994. Print.

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