Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Chapters 1-8 Literary Elements Setting



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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe




Chapters 1-8
Literary Elements
Setting: the novel takes place in the land of Nigeria’s Ibo people, late in the nineteenth century. The first chapters of the novel give no clue to the imminent arrival of the white missionaries whose coming will transform the Ibo cultures irrevocably.
1. In the early chapters of the novel, what kind of information does Achebe provide that contributes to the setting of the novel? List at least four.

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2. What effect does this information have on the setting of the novel?
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Structure: Achebe skillfully uses flashback and foreshadowing in these first eight chapters.
3. Name two things that you learn though flashbacks in chapters 2 and 3.
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4. Write the details of Ezeudu’s warning to Okonkwo. This is an example of foreshadowing.
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In addition, the priestess Chielo’s questioning of Ekwefi about Ezinma’s health foreshadows a subplot developed more fully in chapters 9 and 11.

Characterization: How does Achebe present Okonkwo as a character?
5. List his personal qualities here:

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Themes: What are some of the ideas that Achebe seems to be presenting to the reader early in the novel.
6. List some emerging themes here:

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Style and symbols: Achebe uses the cultural traditions of the Ibo people – proverbs and fables in particular – to reinforce the values and ambitions that will lead to Okonkwo’s troubles and eventual death. Achebe skillfully incorporates African oral tradition into a novelistic form.
7. List any proverbs or symbols here and what you think is significant about them:

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Irony: What is ironic about Okonkwo’s relationships with his children Nwoye, Ezinma and the boy who comes to live with his family, Ikemefuna?
8. List the ironies you see here: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Chapters 9-13

Literary Elements
Setting: What cultural details continue to add to the sense of setting in the novel?
1. List details here:

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Structure: Chapter 9 contains a long flashback about the life of Ekwefi, Okonkwo’s second wife.

2. Why is this flashback important?


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Foreshadowing: Two events that occurred earlier in the novel are resolved. With more detail about Ekwefi and Ezinma, the reader learns the significance of Chielo’s earlier question about Enzinma’s health. When Oknokwo accidentally kills Ezeudu’s son at Ezeudu’s funeral, Ezeudu’s earlier admonition not to participate in the murder of Ikemefuna, a surrogate son to Okonkwo, becomes tragically coincidental.
Theme: The relationship between the individual and society continues as a theme in the novel.

3. What punishment does his society/community mete out to Okonkwo?

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Continual and inevitable change also continues as a theme in the novel.

4. What change must Okonkwo deal with now, and how does he react to it?

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The theme of the balance of traditional masculine and feminine values also becomes more prominent in this section of the novel.

5. List incidences where women play more visible and important roles in the family and village life.

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Style and Symbols: Think about Ekwefi’s fable about the tortoise and Ezinma’s story of the snake-lizard.

6. What is each fable about? What do you think they may symbolize and foreshadow?

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Irony: Think of this literary element in light of Okonkwo’s actions and the theme of masculinity and femininity.

7. What ironies emerge in this part of the novel?

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Chapters 14-19

Literary Elements
Plot: After Okonkwo’s banishment, the pace of the plot development deliberately accelerates. This literary strategy effectively conveys both the rapidity with which the colonists overtook traditional village culture and the striking differences between African and European values and social organization. The coming of British missionaries to Mbanta and Umuofia and the reaction of the clans to their arrival constitute the most important plot development in this section of the novel.
Flashback: Achebe continues to use this structural element.

1. What does Oknokwo learn from Obierika?

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1a. What does Obierika learn from Oknokwo?

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Another structural element that Achebe also continues to use is foreshadowing.

2. What do you think is foreshadowed in the parting exchange between Obierika and Oknokwo and the village elders at the farewell speech for Okonkwo and his family?

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Theme: Note the developments for each of the themes listed below:

3. Continual and inevitable change: (look at the arrival of the British)

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4. The dynamic relationship between an individual and society: (look at the speech that closes Part Two of the novel).

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5. The balance of masculine and feminine values: (look at Uchendu’s statements)

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Irony: When Oknokwo attacks Nwoye for this adoption of the Christian faith, Nwoye leaves his fathers house, never to return.

6. What is the irony in this new development in their relationship? Think of Oknokwo’s own relationship with his father.

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Chapters 20-25

Literary Elements
Plot: In the concluding chapters of the novel, conflict between the Ibo and the British emerges as the central plot development.
Structure: In the last chapters of Things Fall Apart, Achebe relies on narration to move his plot toward its tragic conclusion.

1. How is Okonkwo like a tragic hero?

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1a. What is his tragic flaw?

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Theme: 2. Write one true statement about Okonkwo and the theme: continual and inevitable change.

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3. As an individual in a changing society what does Okonkwo attempt to do?

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4. What does Okonkwo fear?

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5. What effect does the clan members allowing the other kotmas to escape have on Oknokwo?

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6. What does Okonkwo realize about the Ibo that is different from his ancestors?

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7. Fill in the blanks. Oknokwo’s world has ___________________________________________________ and he has ______________________________________________.


FINAL ASSIGNMENT ON Things Fall Apart
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