Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Things Fall Apart study guide

Background research and oral work:

Both from your reading and from research, identify examples of the following elements of culture as they occur in Things Fall Apart. Consider the importance of each to Ibo life as Achebe portrays it. Share your findings with the class.

•Customs / Ways of living (Rituals & ceremonies, Traditions, Manners & etiquette,
rites of passage, family structure)
•Religion / Moral values / Taboos / Superstitions
•Economy / Money
•Government / Social institutions / Structure of social hierarchy
•Agriculture / Food
•Science / Technology
•Education (Formal vs. informal), Gender roles
•Language (oral vs. written) / Proverbs / Wisdom
•Clothing / Fashion

Things to look for as you read

1. What are the distinguishing features of Ibo culture as presented in the novel? How do these features compare with what you learned from your search?

2. Which elements of that culture are most comfortable to us? Which most resemble elements of our (your) culture? Which seem more foregn, more difficult to accept?

3. In what ways does Okonkwo embody the values and principles of Ibo culture? What are the strengths of his character?

4. In what ways does Okonkwo deviate from traditional Ibo values? What are his weaknesses as a character?

5. What is Achebe’s attitude toward Okonkwo? How does he communicate this attitude to us?

A few selected web sites ( also google Achebe + “Things Fall Apart” + Ibo culture):

William Butler Yeats: "The Second Coming" (1921)

Yeats was attracted to the spiritual and occult world and fashioned for himself an elaborate mythology to explain human experience. "The Second Coming," written after the catastrophe of World War I and with communism and fascism rising, is a compelling glimpse of an inhuman world about to be born. Yeats believed that history in part moved in two thousand-year cycles. The Christian era, which followed that of the ancient world, was about to give way to an ominous period represented by the rough, pitiless beast in the poem.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre (1)
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming (2) is at hand;
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi (3)
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries (4)
of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?