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Free Study Guide-Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe-Free Booknotes
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HISTORICAL INFORMATION

Africa has been seen by the Western world as a ‘dark’ continent and very little was known about its land or people. Geological explorations showed that the Sahara desert was initially a fertile area, overflowing in lush vegetation, animal and men. Climatic changes were responsible for the formation of the desert. Africa, therefore, came to be known as an inhospitable place, in spite of areas of with great rivers, thick forests and vast green-lands. This was mainly because the greater part of the continent was separated from Mediterranean civilization and was not open to outside influences.

The people in Africa learned to live in harmony with Nature’s changes. They developed a culture based on religion and nature. They worshipped many different gods and goddesses who represented elements of the natural world. They had priests who were capable of physical and psychic healing, oracles who could foretell the future, and spirits of ancestors who controlled traditions, gave orders and guided the tribe at time of crises. This system of control worked very well for centuries.


But changes occurred with the exploration and eventual economic and social exploitation of Africans by the Western colonizing mission. First came the slave trade where Africans were picked up from the West Coast of Africa and shipped off to distant places where they were sold off as slaves. This disrupted tribal life and also impoverished the land, for now there were no able-bodied men to carry on the hard work of crop-raising.

Then came the expansion policies of many countries, like Portugal, Holland, Germany and Britain who all began to carve out areas of Africa in order to build colonies for themselves. This was a major factor in destroying what was left of African civilization. Finally came the activities of Christian missionaries, who did not care to understand the religion of the people of Africa, whom they considered uncivilized and savage, and proceeded to convert them to Christianity.

Today African countries are self-ruled due to the widespread movement among countries in the 20 th century to seek independence from colonial rule. Although these were bloody conflicts, the end result was the formation of a country with an agenda that was African rather than European. Chinua Achebe, in his novel, has brought to the reader a very realistic picture of traditional Africa as well as its demise with the onset of colonialism. In Things Fall Apart , he has attempted to vindicate the ways of tribal life in Nigeria - in particular among the Igbo tribe to which he belongs by showing the reader the rich and complex traditions that made up African society before the invasion of the continent by Europeans.

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