1. Achebe starts the unique with an elaborate description of the main character Okonkwo. What do we learn about the values of Umuofians through this characterization? 2. Discuss Okonkwo as an Igbo heroic character: how does he work to attain success as defined by his culture? How does he differ from Western heroes? What are Okonkwo’s strengths and weak points? 3. Explain Unoka, Okonkwo’s father. What are Okonkwo’s sensations toward Unoka, and why? How does the example of his dad shape Okonkwo’s character and actions? Would Unoka be viewed differently in a various culture? 4.
What do the early descriptions of Okonkwo’s success and Unoka’s failure inform us about Igbo society? How does one be successful in this cultural context? In the system of the taking of titles who appears to be excluded from opportunities to acquire such success?
5. Describe the setting (time, location, culture) of the novel. Talk about Achebe’s presentation of the details of daily town life in Umuofia, the values and beliefs of the Igbo people, and the significance of ritual, ceremony, social hierarchy, and personal achievement in Igbo culture.
How is social life organized? What are the essential celebrations? What is the function of war, of religion, and of the arts? What is the role of the individual in relation to the neighborhood of Umuofia? Compare/ contrast Igbo way of livings, custom-mades, viewpoints, beliefs, and values to those of your own culture. 6. What is the significance of drums in the novel?
7. What result does night have on the people in Ch. 2? What do they fear? How do they deal with their worry of snakes at night? 8. What is the cause and nature of the conflict with Mbaino? 9. Think about the double functions in the human and spiritual worlds played by the egwugwu and Chielo, the priestess of Agbala. 10. Chielo, the priestess of Agbala is introduced in Ch. 3. What does her power and status in Umuofia recommend about women’s functions in Igbo culture and faiths? Later in the novel, note Chielo’s functions in the village. What are those roles? What does the Ch. 11 occurrence including the priestess of Agbala tell us about the values of the culture? What side of Okonkwo is revealed by his behavior during that long night?
11. The chi or individual spirit is a recurring theme in the unique, a spiritual belief essential to comprehending the main character Okonkwo. Trace further referrals in the unique to the chi. What role does Okonkwo’s chi play in forming his fate? 12. Compare Obierika– a guy “who thinks about things”– to Okonkwo. Is Obierika a kind of foil to Okonkwo? 13. Talk about domesticity and living plans in Okonkwo’s house. Describe Okonkwo’s relationships to his partners and kids, especially to Ekwefi, Ezinma, and Nwoye. 14. What differing roles and functions do men and women have in Igbo society? 15. What is Okonkwo’s mindset towards females?
16. In this polygamous culture, men might take more than one better half and each home is enclosed in a substance. Each spouse resides in a hut with her kids, and the other half sees each wife in turn, though he has his own hut too. Kids are often looked after communally– an African saying states, “It takes a town to raise a kid.” Compare/contrast the benefits and drawbacks of this social structure to our own family plans in the U.S. 17. Talk about the role of Ikemefuna: What is Okonkwo’s relationship with Ikemefuna? Compare Okonkwo’s feelings to Nwoye’s affection for Ikemefuna. Why does Okonkwo act as he does, in spite of the advice of others not to take part in the killing of Ikemefuna? 18. Why is Okonkwo dissatisfied with his boy Nwoye? What values does Okonkwo relate to manliness? How does Nwoye relate to these worths? Compare Okonkwo’s mindset towards Nwoye to Okonkwo’s mindset toward his daughter Ezinma (presented in Ch. 8).
19. How are white guys initially introduced into the story? Why might Africans expect that they have no toes? What sorts of attitudes do the Africans express about white guys? 20. The egwugwu ceremony of the Igbo is dramatized in Ch. 10. Who are the egwugwu and what are the functions of the ceremony? Compare the Igbo system of judgment in domestic affairs with that of the U.S. 21. What are these internal conflicts that erode the unity and integrity of the town? What part does Okonkwo play in the dissension? How does Okonkwo jeopardize his own authority within his neighborhood? 22. Part I provides Igbo life and culture before the coming of the white guy and colonialism. In what way(s) can Things Break down be considered a “response” to representations of Africans in Western literature– or other images of Africa as represented in the Western media, film, books, etc., that you recognize with? How does Achebe’s unique “appropriate” such European depictions of Africa and Africans, and offer you an Afrocentric (Africa-centered), instead of a Eurocentric (or Western-centered), perspective?
23. Even as Achebe works to inform his readers about African culture and to combat demeaning stereotypes, he does not present Igbo society as perfect or perfect. The portrait of this culture on the eve of its “breaking down” in Part I of Things Break down is complicated, sometimes contradictory and critical. What elements of pre-colonial Igbo culture does Achebe appear to concern or slam? How does Achebe use characters like Obierika, Okonkwo, and Nwoye to provide such social criticism of Igbo society? How do individuals of Umuofia react to change? 24. Talk about the style of fate versus individual control over fate. For example, Okonkwo’s dad is sometimes delegated his own actions, while at other times he is described as unfortunate and a victim of evil-fortune. Which do you believe Okonkwo believes holds true? What do you think Achebe thinks is true? 25. It is said on the back of the book: “… Achebe’s eager awareness of the human qualities typical to males of all times and places.” What are those qualities?
26. The villagers believe– or pretend to believe– that the “Supreme Court” of the nine egwugwu are ancestral spirits. In truth, they are males of the village in camouflage. What does this say about the nature of justice in general, and in this town in specific? 27. Do you believe Achebe’s novel as being mostly concerned with black versus white tensions? If not, what else is going on here? 28. Specific elements of the clan’s religious practice, such as the mutilation of a dead kid to prevent its spirit from returning, may impress us as being barbaric. Casting a truthful eye on our own spiritual practices, which ones might appear barbaric or strange to an outsider? 29. In an essay Achebe states: “Here then is an adequate transformation for me to uphold– to assist my society gain back belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement.” In what methods do you feel that this unique places Achebe closer to the satisfaction of this objective?
30. Go over the sacrifice of Ikemefuma as being a parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus. 31. Of among the goddesses, it is said: “It was not the same Chielo who sat with her in the market … Chielo was not a female that night.” What do you make from this culture where people can be both themselves and likewise presume other personalities? Can you think of any parallels in your own world? 32. There are lots of proverbs related throughout the course of the narrative. Recalling particular ones, what function do you view these proverbs as fulfilling in the life of the Ibo? What do you surmise Achebe’s purpose to be in the inclusion of them here?
33. While the standard figure of Okonkwo can in no doubt be seen as the central figure in the tale, Achebe chooses to relate his story in the 3rd individual rather than the very first individual narrative design. What benefits does he enjoy by adopting this method? 34. The District Commissioner is going to title his work The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Niger. What do you analyze from this to be his understanding of Okonkwo and individuals of Umuofia? 35. What function does religious beliefs play in the downfall of Umuofia? Go Over Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith’s methods of evangelization. 36. Critics have suggested that Things Fall Apart has a universal appeal. Do you agree? Discuss your response with examples from the text.