Summary of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Achebe's Life and Work
Chinua Achebe was born November 16, 1930, in Ogidi, in eastern Nigeria, the son of a mission-school teacher, one of the early converts to Christianity in his community. (Unlike Okonkwo in TFA, Achebe’s great-grandfather, who raised his father, had expressed tolerance towards the Christian missionaries and had no objections to his grandson’s conversion.) He was baptized Albert Chinualumogu, in tribute to Prince Albert, but adopted a purely African name when he went to university. Grandfather was an important man in the traditional Igbo culture, so the story of Things Fall Apart is to some extent based on family history.
As one might suspect from his father’s occupation, the family was devoutly Christian, and he was encouraged as a child to feel superior to the “heathen” around him, although as an adult he has questioned whether his neighbors should rather have felt superior to the Christians, as having fallen away from traditional ways. Simon Gikandi points out that Achebe was in fact part of a privileged group within colonial culture, and Achebe too has observed that Christians had access to jobs and education that were denied to others. He was educated at prestigious colonialist schools and graduated from the University of Ibadan in 1953. He then worked in Nigerian radio (he was director of external broadcasting from 1960-67) until the Biafran War, during which he served the Biafran government, primarily as an ambassador to Europe and the United States seeking financial support for the fledgling state.
He published his first novel, Things Fall Apart, in 1958, while Nigeria was still under colonial rule, and followed with three more novels in the next eight years: No Longer at Ease in 1960, Arrow of God in 1964, and A Man of the People in 1966. The last named work, which ends with a military coup in an unnamed African country, was published just as a coup took place in Nigeria, generating particular interest in the novel as a kind of prophetic statement. Following the war, he went through a period of relative silence (producing essays and stories, but no new novels) until Anthills of the Savannahs appeared in 1987.
Achebe gives the following account of the inspiration for his own writing: