I really find stories about families painfully poignant. In an age where ‘family’ as a concept is increasing being undermined by the destructive onslaught of ‘modern’ society, stories like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart became relevant alarms of distress.
Okay, so let me just say that the constant inclusion of this title in every literature syllabus made me repulsive to it. Like the Corona case, You know, that thing that because of the mere fact that you are required to read it, you become annoyed to it. I expect obscure and boring paragraphs (as in all the ‘classics’) about postcolonialism and all that stuff. It turns out that it is way more modest than I dreaded it to be.
Things Fall Apart is basically about Okonkwo, a wealthy and influential former wrestler of an African community called Umuofia. He is well-respected by the whole community because of his strength, fighting prowess, and his diligence to achieve success. He is dominating, short of temper, brave and unrelenting, has a reputation of being heartless, but as expected from these kinds of tales, all these toughness is just a facade. Okonkwo is anxious of being regarded as weak or effeminate, and he is constantly waving his dick around and proving his masculinity by beating up his wives and children. He doesn’t want to be viewed like his father, who is a good-for-nothing lazy bum who died a shameful death. Needless to say Okonkwo is a man of dignity. His inner battles to prove his dominance is the focal point of the novel.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part is mostly about African life, its culture, the complexities and simplicities of their community. There are mini stories, which are surprisingly entertaining. I cannot help but admire the African people and their wisdom as presented in this novel, in contrast to the colonialist propaganda inculcated to us that African people are ignorant, blood-thirsty, and uncivilized. It was a happy and peaceful lifestyle. On the other hand, the second and third parts contain the increasing relevance of the title ‘things fall apart.’ The arrival of Christian missionaries and their effect to the peaceful lifestyle of Okonkwo’s community (and of course Okonkwo himself) is presented in a very justified yet increasingly tension-driven manner. Just read the book. I won’t spoil the fun.
I love the dramatic ironies that bind the novel. I was touched by many scenes, especially Okonkwo’s son’s relationship with his father. The frustration of being father was presented very dramatically. There is also a sub-story about an orphaned boy, who in the vein of Gabo’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, was sacrificed for the benefit of the tribe. Gruesome and nasty stuff.
Things Fall Apart is singularly relevant to the Philippine experience, as the tradition of binding family values is an integral part of our culture. It is easy to relate to Okonkwo and his community’s experiences.
So finally, summing up the reasons to read this book: (1) it is a classic, so not saying much about that, (2) it is not boring, in fact it is cute; it is far from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which is of similar theme but way too booorrring like some protracted brain torture, (3} it is bittersweet and heartbreaking, perfect for emos out there; (4} it is just a quick read; I read it in less than a day, considering that I have many things to tend to.